Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo’s Oratory Could Give Way To A Complicated Year

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an email to supporters on Wednesday continued to push the theme of his third inaugural address of New York being able to “rise above hate.”

Cuomo’s office highlighted excerpts from the Ellis Island speech in a Facebook post which pointed to the more aspirational aspects of the address — namely what Cuomo’s sees as New York’s role as a bulwark for liberal ideals and causes in the country.

“It is New York’s duty, it is New York’s destiny, it is New York’s legacy to bring the light to lead the way through the darkness and I pledge to the people of the State of New York, that’s what we will do together,” Cuomo wrote in the email.

The expectation is lawmakers will act quickly in the coming weeks on a range of long-sought measures that will likely include voting reforms, a strengthening of abortion laws and gun control.

But the poetry of campaigning and the prose of governing could be especially stark in 2019.

The new year is also bringing with it a set of complicated challenges for the governor, including a souring relationship with fellow Democrats in the Legislature, who control both chambers with large working majorities.

The new session starts next Wednesday and runs through June.

Cuomo Warns Legislature Of Investigations

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday in a radio interview warned lawmakers who may launch investigations next year that his administration could also probe spending like member items, grants and contracts.

Investigations committees in the Senate and Assembly will be led by Sen. James Skoufis and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, two Democrats who have been critical of the governor.

But Cuomo in an interview with WAMC suggested his office has oversight powers as well that could make life difficult for the Legislature.

“Look, you can always get into an investigations battle. They have oversight committees,” he said. “I have every state contract, every member item contract, every grant that the Legislature does goes through my government, so I could investigate every one of those.”

Cuomo insisted he didn’t want it to come to that, comparing the dynamic to the likelihood of investigations by incoming Democrats in the House of Representatives who have vowed to launch inquiries into the Trump administration.

“That would be counterproductive and a waste,” he said. “That’s what’s going to happen in Washington now.”

Cuomo said those investigations aren’t a waste of time, but said the Democratic House is aiming to “slow down the president from doing bad things.”

He’s more concerned with Democrats in Albany showing “they can function.”

“I think one of her first priorities is show we can function,” Cuomo said of the incoming Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “This is not 2009.”

Legislative investigations could prove tricky for a governor who launched a Moreland Commission to review potential corruption in the state Legislature, only to shutter it in 2014 after an agreement was reached on ethics reforms in the state budget.

The closure of the commission was sharply criticized by Cuomo’s opponents at the time. In 2015, both top lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly would be arrested on corruption and fraud charges.

Cuomo Plans To Include Most Of Agenda In Budget Proposal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to include the bulk of his 2019 legislative agenda in his state budget proposal, he told Alan Chartock in an interview on WAMC radio on Wednesday morning.

“All of it,” Cuomo said when asked about what measures will be included in his spending plan. “All of it. Time matters.”

Cuomo within the first 100 days of his third term wants to see the passage of bills that would make it easier to vote in New York, a measure designed to strengthen abortion rights, gun control legislation and campaign finance reforms as well as the legalization of adult use marijuana.

Some of those bills, like the abortion-rights measure known as the Reproductive Health Act and the voting law changes, are expected to be approved by the Legislature in the coming weeks, before the budget is due at the end of March.

A Cuomo administration aide said Wednesday that some items will likely be approved early in the legislative session, but those that are not accomplished will be included in the budget agreement.

The legislative session is scheduled to begin in Albany on Jan. 9 and Cuomo’s budget proposal is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

The governor typically holds a large amount of leverage over how the budget is shaped.

Cuomo also has not been shy when it comes to included non-budgetary policy measures in the state spending plan.

Lawmakers are especially mindful of that as future phase ins of their legislative pay increases, growing their salaries to $120,000 and $130,000 in the next several years, are being linked to the approval of “timely” budget plans.

Cuomo Says Biden Has ‘The Best Case’ For President Among Dems

Former Vice President Joe Biden has the experience and the “best case” among the crowded field of potential Democratic candidates for president, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday in a radio interview.

“My two cents, I think of all the names that are out there, I think Joe Biden has the best base,” Cuomo said in an interview on WAMC radio in Albany. “I think Joe Biden brings most of the secret ingredient you need for a Democrat to win, which is credibility.”

But Cuomo also shrugged off a follow-up question as to whether he would take a slot as Biden’s running mate.

“I’m not even focusing on any of that,” he said.

Cuomo on Tuesday was sworn in for a third term at Ellis Island, delivering a speech that was in large part a rebuke of President Donald Trump and his policies.

Cuomo’s publicly backing of a potential Biden run came in response to a question about the formation of an exploratory committee by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Cuomo’s support for Biden comes after both men have appeared publicly close in recent years. As vice president, Biden held multiple events with Cuomo to discuss federal funding for major infrastructure projects.

Biden also campaigned for Cuomo’s re-election bid last year, appearing at the New York Democratic convention in May and later in a TV ad for the governor.

Cuomo’s support for Biden comes to the detriment of fellow New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is also believed to be among those considering a campaign for president. Gillibrand and Cuomo are not considered especially close, but she did endorse Cuomo’s re-election amid his primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon last year.

Cuomo has also in the last several years aligned himself with Sen. Bernie Sanders on issues like paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage. Sanders is also considering a second campaign for president in 2020.

But Cuomo in the interview leaned heavily on Biden’s experience in government.

“You have the anti-Trump feeling, which is pervasive and it doesn’t much to say I oppose Donald Trump as a Democrat,” Cuomo said.

The biggest challenge for Democratic presidential candidates “is going to be credibility,” Cuomo said.

“The main issue for the Democrats is not going to be the articulation of the negative. It’s going to be the articulation of the positive and credibility.”

He added: “Joe Biden can say, ‘I was there, I wasn’t the president, but I was the second seat.'”

3 Takeaways From Cuomo’s Third Inaugural

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was ceremonially sworn in for a third term on Tuesday at Ellis Island, in a speech that was both nationally focused and concerned with an ambitious agenda in New York. Here are three takeaways from the address as Cuomo begins term three.

Trump Remains A Punching Bag

There was a time, not long ago, that Cuomo was hesitant in attacking Trump by name, choosing instead to criticize Republicans in Washington writ large. That change last year as the campaign season heated up and Trump’s approval rating in New York, especially with Democrats, was abysmally low. Trump will remain a convenient foil for Cuomo through 2019 as he now as no real Republican opponents here at home. Senate Republicans are out of power in Albany and Democrats control all branches of the Legislature. And now Cuomo is playing nice with his fellow Democrat and rival, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, an alliance forged out of a shared support for the Amazon deal in Long Island City. Trump remains an especially useful opponent given that he appears to understand the politics surrounding Cuomo’s rhetoric. Cuomo met with the president at the end of last year to discuss funding for the Gateway Tunnel project. Asked about Cuomo’s criticism, Trump reportedly brushed it off.

Cuomo Has Problems With Fellow Democrats

Yes, the feud with de Blasio has been switched from “kill” to “get along.” But in the Legislature itself, there are brewing problems for the governor. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins both skipped the inauguration ceremony. Heastie has remained vocally dissatisfied with the strings attached to the legislative pay raise that includes caps on outside income, an end to stipends for most leadership posts and future phase ins are tied to on-time budget approvals. Heastie’s spokesman during the governor’s address went as far as to provide running criticisms of Cuomo on Twitter. And both Stewart-Cousins and Heastie have signaled they are ready to work in an alliance, perhaps similar to the partnership of Joe Bruno and Sheldon Silver, when it comes to dealing with the hard-nosed Cuomo. As for the governor, he is pointing to his mandate, a landslide third term win in November, as well as the menu of bills that unite Democrats. One party rule can be viciously personal (just see the last time it happened in Albany 10 years ago), but Cuomo is counting on business overriding personal imperatives.

Cuomo Is Thinking Nationally

He may not be running for president, but Cuomo increasingly sees himself as someone with a national platform. The governor dislikes traveling out of the state and avoids the Sunday political chat shows. But he is now one of the longest tenured governors in the country, with prominent leadership roles at the National Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association. His address spoke to the national unease at the moment and the social upheaval of the last decade. If the $10 billion budget gap he faced in 2011 was an acute challenge, the “social depression” in 2019 is a more obtuse and complicated thing to tackle. Cuomo wants the center, such as it is, to hold in New York state government. Cuomo’s critics have compared him to Trump at times, but really where the two men differ is on a philosophy about government and order. Trump seems to revel in chaos. Cuomo shuns it.

Sworn In For A Third Term, Cuomo Pledges Liberal Bulwark In New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, sworn in for a third term on Tuesday night, pledged New York would be a bulwark of liberal values while also urging newly elected lawmakers to notch accomplishments and turn aside the rhetoric of campaigning.

Speaking to a crowd on Ellis Island, Cuomo promised “the most progressive agenda this state has ever seen, period.”

“Let us say New York did not seek to blame or use anger, but choose the hard and true path,” he said.

He compared the current national political discourse to a “social depression” and a “cancer.”

“America’s only threat is from within. It is the growing division amongst us,” he said.

“It is like a cancer spreading throughout our society. A disease spreading the body politic that is attacking other cells.”

But if the speech could be seen by some as a launchpad to a presidential campaign that Cuomo has insisted so far is not in the works, it was also a plea for the political center to hold first and foremost in New York and Albany in particular.

“New Yorkers know the difference between rhetoric and results,” he said. “We either perform by delivering real solutions that restore hope and progress in peoples’ lives or we fail.”

Cuomo plans to push within his first 100 days for a range of new measures that are largely backed by Democrats who hold large majorities in both the Assembly and Senate.

The inauguration was rife with illusions to President Donald Trump and his administration’s policies, especially immigration.

“New York will move forward my friends not by building new walls, but new airports,” he said, while noting ancestors of both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were processed through Ellis Island.

He also pointedly noted the state was keeping Ellis Island and neighboring Liberty Island open during the federal government shutdown, caused in large part by Trump’s push for a Mexican border wall.

Cuomo faces challenges in the next four years unlike those he’s faced between 2011 and 2017 when Republicans held a narrow majority in the state Senate with the help of a handful of breakaway Democrats.

Democrats control all branches of state government in New York and all statewide offices.

But with that control comes expectations from the base of the party, especially in the era of Trump. Democrats in the coming weeks are expected to take on measures that range from strengthening abortion rights to gun control, the legalization of marijuana for adult use and making it easier to vote in New York.

Pitfalls remain over coming duels over health care and education aid in the state budget, due at the end of March.

At the same time, the new legislative session is starting off on awkward footing with the governor.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has been vocally dissatisfied with the agreement to raise legislative pay for the first time in 20 years, a move by a compensation committee that was also coupled with limits on outside income and an end to stipends for most leadership posts in the Legislature.

Senate Democrats have largely steered clear of the pay raise fight, but have a large 39-member majority in the 63-seat Senate, including new lawmakers who have been skeptical of Cuomo and his liberal bona fides.

Cuomo has sought to emphasize his common bonds with the new Democrats, urging them to focus on what they can accomplish in the new legislative session, even as he’s shied away from a push for single-payer health care, which he supports on the federal level.

And then for the next four years, there’s the troubles of a third term, which any mayor or governor of New York in previous decades can attest to.

Cuomo has shown no indication, as of now, that he’s interested in seeking the presidency in 2020, insisting he will serve out his full, four-year term as governor.

And it was also an emotional day for Cuomo, the four-year anniversary of his father’s death.

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo died soon after his son was sworn in for a second term.

“Pop, wherever you are, and I think I know where, please give us the strength to fight this good fight,” Cuomo said. “To resist the hate mongers and the naysayers.”

Cuomo Holds The Cards

From the Morning Memo:

When he was sworn in for the first time in 2011, Andrew Cuomo faced an entrenched Democratic speaker in the state Assembly and a newly invigorated Republican majority bolstered by a rump caucus of Democrats in the state Senate.

At the time, there were political rewards of working across the aisle, finding mutual areas of interest and compromising.

Cuomo would proudly point to the accomplishments he’s notched in eight years compared to the dysfunction of Washington, which also operated under divided government, but very different rules.

But over the course of two terms in office, things shifted amid several black swan-style events.

Both the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly were convicted of fraud and bribery.

The glue holding the fragile alliance between the Independent Democratic Conference and the Senate GOP dried up after the election of President Donald Trump, which supercharged liberal activists in New York.

From that new activism rose new candidates challenging how Albany worked. The state Capitol can be a static place, where change is a veneer and actual, real change shunned in favor of the status quo.

So for Cuomo, the third term is being seen as something of a reset: Democrats now have working (and large) majorities in both the Assembly and Senate. Many of them are Democrats who personally do not like him and are leading committees that are geared toward investigating his branch of government.

At the same time, the conventional wisdom goes, the new Democrats in office will push Cuomo for items he doesn’t want, like more spending for direct school aid and single-payer health care.

And yet despite this, Cuomo continues to hold the lion’s share of power in state government.

Consider the office of governor, an inherently powerful position to begin with, given the ability to release the budget as proposed in full. Cuomo has added bit of leverage over the next several years, with phased-in legislative pay increases linked to the passage of budgets by April 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year.

It’s also no mistake Cuomo continues to point to his vote total in the November general election in which he defeated Republican Marc Molinaro. To his liberal detractors, he sounds Trump-like. But to him, it’s a reminder that he has a statewide mandate for the next four years.

Add to this the governor’s political alliances remain strong: Labor in both the private and public sector is on his side. The state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, consists entirely of his nominees due to retirements that occurred during his time in office.

Cuomo can set the agenda. Cuomo has the leverage.

Single party rule can be complicated and troublesome. The most recent example was the ill-fated 2009-10 legislative session, in which Democrats held a narrow majority in the Senate and tussled with Republicans in an disastrous coup.

That was under different leaders and a different governor, David Paterson, who never was able to fill the power vacuum left by the resignation of Eliot Spitzer and retirement of Joe Bruno.

If anything has been learned in the last eight years, Cuomo is adept at the sheer wielding of power, retreating when he has to, and only coming around on major policies after he’s measured twice and cut once.

The incoming lawmakers may not be impressed with that ability, however. Power is a means to an end, but in a new political era, with the personal costs for women, people of color, the poor and immigrants far more specific and acute, the real focus is on ideology.

Cuomo Grants New Year’s Eve Clemency To 29 People

From the Morning Memo:

Clemency was granted to 29 people by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on New Year’s Eve, including nearly two dozen immigrants who faced deportation and people convicted of murder who showed “substantial evidence of rehabilitation.”

“While President Trump shuts down the federal government over his obsession with keeping immigrants out, New York stands strong in our support for immigrant communities,” Cuomo said. “These actions will help keep immigrant families together and take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York.”

The actions included pardons for those with drug offenses who faced deportation or their records made it prohibitive for them to get jobs.

Many of the convictions were for drug offenses as well as auto theft and robbery.

Cuomo’s office in 2017 launched a project meant to provide legal defense services to immigrants, regardless of their status in the U.S. The partnership with non-profit legal service providers known as the Liberty Defense Project was aimed at expanding the availability of lawyers who provide immigration-related services.

Cuomo also commuted the sentences of seven people, including three men who were convicted of second-degree murder charges.

The governor’s office pointed to the life stories of the men following their convictions, including their pursuit of college degrees and work with non-profit groups.

Cuomo Cancels Puerto Rico Trip Amid Federal Shutdown

Gov. Andrew Cuomo cancelled a planned trip to Puerto Rico to hand out Christmas presents, saying in a radio interview Saturday the federal government’s partial shutdown has “complicated” things enough for him to stay in New York.

“I was looking forward to going myself tomorrow just to send the best wishes of New Yorkers but with this federal shutdown, there are some complications, so I’m going to stay in the state,” Cuomo said in the interview with 1010 WINS. “My job as the Governor is to make sure the state is running well. It is complicated with the federal shutdown. So I’ll stay here but the toys will still go to Puerto Rico and I think the toys, frankly, were more important than me.”

Cuomo also announced Saturday the state would pay to keep Ellis Island and Liberty Island open for the duration of the shutdown at a cost of $65,000 a day.

Cuomo plans to hold a ceremony at Ellis Island for his third term inauguration on Jan. 1.

“Symbolically, while we’re watching government at its worst in Washington, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of America at her best,” Cuomo told 1010. “So, keeping the torch lit I think is a perfect metaphor while this situation is devolving in Washington.”

Cuomo Signs Bill Of Rights For Sexual Assault Survivors

A measure that would create a bill of rights for survivors of rape and sexual assault was signed into law on Friday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“As the federal government shamefully ignores the voices of sexual assault survivors, New York is doing everything in our power to empower survivors and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect,” Cuomo said. “This legislation will support our work to combat the scourge of sexual harassment and assault, help deliver justice to survivors and make New York a safer state for all.”

The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Sen. Kemp Hannon, establishes the right of survivors to be informed of their rights under state law.

Those provisions include consulting with organizations that provide crisis or victim assistance counseling, health care services at no cost and updates on the status of their case and sexual evidence evidence kit.

“This is a great day that puts in place a missing protection for sexual assault survivors and bringing more compassion to the law enforcement response to survivors,” Simotas said.

“I’m thankful to Governor Cuomo for enacting this new law, to the advocates whose dedication and collaboration brought this about and to Kemp Hannon, my colleague in the State Senate who sponsored the bill in that house. I’m proud that we could all work together for such an important cause.”