Cuomo, the man under investigation for nursing home deaths and sexual harassment, is in charge of weekly COVID calls with other governors.
Governors have become frustrated because President Joe Biden has not attended a single weekly COVID briefing. Vice President Kamala Harris has only attended one so far.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of all people, has taken charge of the briefings.
Every Tuesday, usually at 11 a.m. EST, all 50 governors dial in to the same conference call to coordinate federal and state responses to the coronavirus crisis. And until this past January, they heard each time from the vice president. Mike Pence, as head of the White House COVID task force, led those weekly discussions. Donald Trump dropped by from time to time. The calls continue under the current administration but without Biden. “It’s been a real frustration, I think it’s safe to say, for all 50 governors,” New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu told RealClearPolitics.
Of course, he appreciates hearing from Jeffrey Zients (pictured), the new White House COVID response coordinator, and from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser. But Sununu told RCP, “It would go a long way if the president would just get on the phone, or the vice president would get on the phone and take questions. Allow us to ask the folks in charge questions.”
Trump’s administration had 40 conference calls with the governors. Trump took part in eight and “Pence led 39 of them.”
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Harris stayed on the line for only five minutes during her one call. She did not take any questions from the governors.
So Cuomo, the man under investigation for nursing home deaths and sexual harassment, leads the calls now:
Andrew Cuomo now leads the calls as chairman of the National Governors Association. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained that the New York governor was put in charge instead of the vice president because a change was needed. One of the reasons, Psaki told reporters in March, “is that there were operational aspects of the way the last administration approached COVID and approached the distribution of vaccines or approached planning and engagement with governors that wasn’t working.”
The new approach was also required, a White House official told RCP, because the pandemic response has changed dramatically from the early days when little was known about the virus to now, when half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
And the COVID calls changed, the official added, only after the White House sought input from the states: “We took the feedback from governors in the prior administration that they wanted to have strong, regular, and coordinated response efforts with the federal government, and we’ve been focused on it.”
The change disappoints Ricketts the calls are “not the type of bipartisan partnership that the president promised when he came into office in his inaugural address.”
Other governors told RCP the lack of communication leaves them frustrated because they do not know “how to spend the money allocated in the American Rescue Plan” and the “vaccine distribution schedule.”DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.