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New York Assembly Opens Impeachment Investigation Into Gov. Cuomo



  • New York State Assembly leaders said Thursday that they are launching an impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). 
  • The investigation will look into sexual misconduct allegations against the governor from at least six women as well as his administration’s handling of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes.
  • Ahead of the investigation announcement, 59 state legislators from Cuomo’s own party signed a letter demanding he step down.
  • On Friday, 12 out of the 19 Democrats representing New York in the U.S. House echoed those calls, officially marking a majority of the Democrats in the delegation who have now done so.

State Assembly Opens Inquiry

New York’s Democratic-held State Assembly officially moved to open an impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Thursday.

Following a three-hour emergency meeting, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) announced that he would give the chamber’s judiciary committee jurisdiction to investigate the growing sexual misconduct allegations against the governor, as well as his administration’s handling of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and subsequent efforts to conceal data.

At least six women, including current and former aides, have accused Cuomo of unwanted touching and inappropriate remarks in the weeks following similar allegations from ex-staffers Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett.

Earlier this week, The Times Union of Albany detailed new accusations from an unidentified female aide who said Cuomo groped her under her blouse at the governor’s residence late last year, according to a source with “direct knowledge” of the woman’s claims.

On Thursday, Albany Police Department officials said they had been notified by the New York State Police and the governor’s office about an alleged incident at the governor’s mansion. That incident, they said, involves Cuomo and a female aide and may have risen “to the level of a crime.

Cuomo called the details of the most recent report “gut-wrenching,” but denied acting in the way the aide had described. 

A little over a week ago, the governor apologized for causing any offense or harm in remarks he said may have been “insensitive or too personal.” Still, he has repeatedly denied that he touched anyone inappropriately and urged New Yorkers to wait for the findings of the state attorney general’s investigation into the claims.

Growing Calls To Resign

The Assembly’s impeachment investigation is the clearest signal that the governor’s party is turning against him. Members from both parties have condemned Cuomo and called for his resignation over the last few weeks, but those demands have grown drastically in recent days.

Speaker Heastie had previously indicated that he would not move forward with impeachment without a majority of his caucus — a standard procedure for most legislation in the 150-seat chamber, where Democrats hold more than twice as many seats as Republicans.

His Thursday announcement comes after 59 Democrats in the State Legislature — about 40%— signed a statement that same day demanding that Cuomo step down immediately. On Friday, several Democrats who represent New York in the U.S. House of Representatives issued almost simultaneous calls for Cuomo to leave office, including Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler.

“The repeated accusations against the Governor, and the manner in which he has responded to them, have made it impossible for him to continue to govern at this point,” Nadler said in a statement on Twitter. “Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of the people of New York. Governor Cuomo must resign.”

Prominent progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman echoed those remarks in a joint statement. With the latest demands, a majority of Democrats in the New York delegation to the U.S. House — 12 out of the 19 — have now asked for Cuomo to quit.  

Cuomo condemned the politicians who called for his resignation during a press conference Friday, where he accused them of being “reckless and dangerous” and “bowing to cancel culture.”

“Politicians who don’t know a single fact, but yet form a conclusion and an opinion are, in my opinion, reckless and dangerous. That is politics at its worst,” he said, repeating his refusal to step down. “I’m not going to resign. I was not elected by the politicians. I was elected by the people.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)


Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win



The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.

New Maps Upheld

A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.

Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.

The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.

The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.

In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”

The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”

Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.

Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution. 

The Path Ahead

While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.

There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.

A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected. 

See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Biden Administration Says Private Insurers Will Have to Cover 8 At-Home Tests a Month



The policy will apply to all the nearly 150 million Americans who have private insurance.

New At-Home Testing Policy

The Biden administration announced Monday that private health insurers will now be required to pay for up to eight at-home rapid tests per plan member each month.

Under the new policy, starting Saturday, private insurance holders will be able to purchase any at-home test approved by the FDA at a pharmacy or online. They will either not be asked to pay any upfront costs or be reimbursed for their purchase through their provider.

The move is expected to significantly expand access to rapid tests that other countries have been distributing to their citizens free of charge for months. 

According to reports, nearly 150 million Americans — about 45% of the population — have private insurance. 

Each dependent enrolled on the primary insurance holder’s account is counted as a member. That means a family of four enrolled on a single plan would be eligible for 32 free at-home rapid tests a month.

Potential Exemptions

All tests may not be fully covered depending on where they are purchased. 

In order to help offset costs, the Biden administration is incentivizing insurance providers to establish a network of “preferred” pharmacies and stores where people in the plan can get tests without paying out of pocket.

As a result, health plans that do create those networks will only be required to reimburse up to $12 per test if they are purchased out of that network, meaning people could be on the hook for the rest of the cost.

If an insurer does not set up a preferred network, they will have to cover all at-home tests in full regardless of the place of purchase.

During a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said tests should be “out the door in the coming weeks.”

“The contracts [for testing companies] are structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week,” she added.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Biden Administration Unveils Plan To Replace All Lead Pipes



The effort builds on the $15 billion allocated under the bipartisan infrastructure bill for lead pipe replacement, but industry leaders say $60 billion will be needed for nationwide revitalization.

White House Outlines Actions on Lead Pipes and Paint

The Biden administration rolled out a sweeping plan on Thursday to remove all the nation’s lead pipes over the next decade and take other steps to prevent lead paint contamination.

Lead, which was commonly used in piping for municipal water systems all over the country until it was banned in 1978, is a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause serious nervous system damage, especially in children.

Contamination from lead pipes seeping into water supplies has caused multiple high-profile public health and environmental catastrophes over the last decade, including the notorious crisis in Flint, Michigan.

According to a White House factsheet, an estimated 10 million households are connected to water through lead pipes. Children and teenagers in 400,000 schools and child care facilities also risk exposure to lead-contaminated water.

“Because of inequitable infrastructure development and disinvestment, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these risks,” the factsheet stated.

To address those disparities and revitalize water systems across the nation, the White House outlined 15 new action items the Biden administration is taking, including:

  • Launching “a new regulatory process to protect communities from lead in drinking water” through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Clarifying that state, local, and Tribal governments can use the $350 billion aid allocated under the American Rescue Plan to replace lead service lines.
  • Establishing federally-operated regional technical assistance hubs “to fast track lead service line removal projects in partnership with labor unions and local water agencies.”
  • Awarding federal grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remove lead paint in low-income communities.
  • Directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand childhood lead testing.
  • Establishing “a new Cabinet Level Partnership for Lead Remediation in Schools and Child Care Centers.”

The White House also said it will direct the EPA to allocate $3 billion for state, local, and Tribal governments to replace lead pipes through funding that was approved under the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.

A Matter of Funding

In total, Congress provided $15 billion to revitalize the nation’s lead-pipe systems under the infrastructure bill. 

However, industry experts have estimated that it will cost $60 billion to entirely overhaul all the remaining lead pipes in the U.S.

As a result, the Biden administration has proposed several additional funding mechanisms in the social safety net package, known as the Build Back Better Act, that is currently being negotiated by Congress.

Specifically, the legislation would set aside $9 billion for lead remediation grants to disadvantaged communities, $1 billion for rural water utilities to remove lead pipes, and $5 billion for mitigation efforts such as removing lead-based water fixtures in low-income households.

The Build Back Better Act would additionally provide $65 billion for public housing agencies and $5 billion for other federally-assisted housing organizations to improve housing quality, including by replacing lead pipes and service lines.

The status of that legislation, as well as what provisions will remain in the final version, remain in limbo. While Democratic leadership has pushed to pass the sweeping social bill before the new year, all 50 of the party’s members in the Senate will need to sign on, and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has continued to withhold his support.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Axios) (The Washington Post)

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