April 16, 2020
President Donald Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—the latter of whom has risen to greater prominence nationwide and higher performance ratings during the COVID-19 crisis—butted heads this week over who has the power to reopen the country, which has largely shut down in response to the pandemic.
Two coalitions on both coasts announced by nine Democratic governors—and including including Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom— have eclipsed the president’s authority-saying they will form plans on when and how to start reopening their states, with little mention of the president, The Epoch Times reports.
And they have the authority to do it, for two reasons:
- First, according to the Centers for Disease Control, states “have police power functions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of persons within their borders.”
- Second, the president, himself, delegated authority for the coronavirus mitigation effort to the governors early on, instead of risking responsibility for the (possibly unsuccessful) effort at the federal level.
However, Trump told reporters late on April 13 that he, alone, had the authority to decide when to reopen the country; and then reversed himself at another point during the briefing, saying that the governors could decide when to reopen their states.
“We will soon finalize new and very important guidelines to give governors the information they need to start safely opening their states,” he said, referencing a new committee he formed to explore when and how to reopen.
Asked what would happen if some states refuse to reopen, Trump suggested those governors would be voted out of office.
“They’re going to open. They’re going to all open. They want to open. They have to open. They have to get open. Every one of those states, people want to go,” the president said. “We have local government that hopefully will do a good job and, if they don’t do a good job, I’d step in so fast.”
The situation is different in some states that have seen few cases of the CCP virus, compared with some of the hardest-hit states such as New York, Louisiana, and Michigan, Trump said.
Vice President Mike Pence backed the president, The Epoch Times reported, remarking, “Throughout the long history of this country, the authority of the president of the United States during national emergencies is unquestionably plenary,” or absolute.
“You can look back through times of war and other national emergencies,” he said.
“It is possible for federal, state, local, and tribal health authorities to have and use all at the same time, separate but coexisting legal quarantine power in certain events. In the event of a conflict, federal law is supreme,” the agency stated.
In direct opposition, Cuomo, who has veered between praising and criticizing Trump, said early on April 14 that Trump shouldn’t try to force states to reopen.
Noting that Trump is not a “king,” Cuomo told MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosts, “The only way this situation gets worse is if the president creates a constitutional crisis.”
“If he says to me, ‘I declare it open,’ and that is a public health risk or it’s reckless with the welfare of the people of my state, I will oppose it.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also pushed back on Trump’s assertions while California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has repeatedly referred to that state as a “nation-state,” said the West Coast compact will focus on reopening based on “health—not politics.”
Trump responded to Cuomo on Twitter, claiming the New York governor has been calling him every day “begging for everything,” including items that should have been the state’s responsibility, such as new hospitals and ventilators.
“I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!” Trump wrote.
Research contact: @EpochTimes