New York Attorney General’s Role in Investigating Nursing Home Deaths is Unclear, Republicans Seek Status Update

March 10, 2021

Brady, Nunes, Reed Request Update from NY AG on New York Nursing Home Deaths, Data Cover-Up Investigation

WASHINGTON, DC –Ways and Means Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-TX) has requested an update from the New York State Office of the Attorney General on any progress made in investigating the undercounting of COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes. The letter was joined by Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY).

“Although recent reports indicate that an ‘outside lawyer hired by the state has begun interviewing officials about the handling of nursing homes during the pandemic,’ it is unclear if those efforts are under your direction and include the authority to issue subpoenas, if necessary, in order to get to the truth.

“Have you asked Governor Cuomo for a referral pursuant to Executive Law Section 63(8) to allow for an independent investigation of the high number of COVID-19 related deaths in New York nursing homes and associated deliberate misreporting by the Governor?” asked Ways and Means Republicans.

The letter follows a March 5 request by Republican congressional leaders to House Democrat counterparts to hold a joint hearing regarding the undercounting of COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes. That letter was signed by Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-LA), Ways and Means Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-TX), Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Devin Nunes (R-CA), Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Oversight and Reform Committee Republican Leader James Comer (R-KY). The revelations appeared in reporting by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times late on March 4, 2020.

A copy of the letter to the New York Attorney General’s Office can be found here. Further background is below.

Key Facts:

  • In February 2021 Ways and Means Committee Democrats refused a request for a bipartisan hearing on the issue.
  • Also in February 2021 Ways and Means Committee Democrats rejected a proposal offered by Rep. Reed hold governors accountable and get answers for nursing home residents and their families by requiring governors to attest that their states have been reporting accurate nursing home data and that they would continue to report accurate data moving forward.
  • In March 2020 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued disastrous directives that knowingly sent thousands of COVID-19 positive patients back into nursing homes across the state, spreading the virus and killing thousands of New York’s parents and grandparents.
  • Ways and Means Republicans raise concerns with impact of Governor Cuomo and other governor’s decisions lethal orders at a hearing titled “Hearing Examining the COVID-19 Nursing Home Crisis.” These concerns were dismissed by Democrats who praised Governor Cuomo as a national leader for his COVID-19 response.
  • In July 2020, according to recent reports, Governor Cuomo’s office rewrote a critical health department report to hide the true nursing home death data from the world.
  • In January 2021, the New York State Office of the Attorney General issued a scathing report stating that nursing home deaths had been undercounted by “approximately 50 percent” and that the Governor’s mandates “[m]ay have contributed to increased risk or nursing home resident infection, and subsequent fatalities…” The death toll has now risen to approximately 15,000 souls.
  • In February 2021, Governor Cuomo’s top aide then admitted that numbers were not accurately reported out of fear that the accurate numbers would be “used against us by federal prosecutors.”
  • On February 25, 2021, Ranking Member Brady, Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Nunes, and Representative Reed sent a letter to the Biden Administration asking for a briefing from Health and Human Services officials regarding federal nursing home data collection.
  • On March 5, 2021, Republican Leaders sent a letter renewing the request for a hearing on New York nursing home deaths and the data cover-up.
  • To date, House Democrats have not responded to repeated requests for hearings and have refused to take any action to get to the bottom New York Governor Cuomo’s actions with regard to New York’s nursing home residents.

The following is a comprehensive timeline that includes other committee actions as well as Ways and Means activity.

Key Facts:

  • March 2020
    • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued disastrous directives that knowingly sent thousands of COVID-19 positive patients back into nursing homes across the state, spreading the virus and killing thousands of New York’s parents and grandparents.
  • June 2020
    • The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis held a public briefing titled “The Devastating Impact of The Coronavirus Crisis in America’s Nursing Homes.” Republicans requested Chairman Clyburn join an investigation into Governor Cuomo’s lethal directive and he declined.
    • Select Subcommittee Republicans sent a letter to Governor Cuomo requesting communications and data about his lethal order that violated CDC and CMS nursing home guidance and directed COVID-19 positive patients into the nursing home. Democrats refused to join this effort. Governor Cuomo ignored the request.
    • Select Subcommittee Republicans sent letters to Democrat New York Attorney General Letitia James requesting an investigation of Governor Cuomo’s lethal directive. Although AG James did not directly respond to Republicans’ request, the pressure from Select Subcommittee Republicans and others resulted in her launching an investigation.
    • Ways and Means Republicans raise concerns with impact of Governor Cuomo and other governor’s decisions lethal orders at a hearing titled “Hearing Examining the COVID-19 Nursing Home Crisis”. These concerns were dismissed by Democrats who praised Governor Cuomo as a national leader for his COVID-19 response.
  • July 2020
    • According to recent reports, Governor Cuomo’s office rewrote a critical health department report to hide the true nursing home death data from the world.
    • Select Subcommittee Republicans sent a letter to Governor Cuomo dismantling his sham report, which passed the blame for the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes to the front-line health care workers. Additionally, Republicans requested communications and data about his lethal order. Governor Cuomo ignored this request.
  • January 2021
    • The New York State Office of the Attorney General issued a scathing report stating that nursing home deaths had been undercounted by “approximately 50 percent” and that the Governor’s mandates “[m]ay have contributed to increased risk or nursing home resident infection, and subsequent fatalities…” The death toll has now risen to approximately 15,000 souls.
    • Select Subcommittee Republicans sent a letter to Governor Cuomo highlighting the bombshell report from Democrat NY AG James and again requesting communications and data about his lethal order. Governor Cuomo ignored this request.
  • February 2021
    • Governor Cuomo’s top aide then admitted that numbers were not accurately reported out of fear that the accurate numbers would be “used against us by federal prosecutors.”
    • Oversight and Reform Committee Republicans called on Chairwoman Maloney to issue subpoenas for Governor Cuomo’s sworn testimony and for all documents and communications Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Republicans have requested repeatedly from Governor Cuomo related to his order.
    • Ways and Means Committee Democrats refused a request for a bipartisan hearing on the issue.
    • Ways and Means Committee Democrats rejected a proposal offered by Rep. Reed to hold governors accountable and get answers for nursing home residents and their families by requiring governors to attest that their states have been reporting accurate nursing home data and that they would continue to report accurate data moving forward.
    • Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee blocked an amendment for more transparency and accountability in COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
    • On February 25, Ranking Member Brady, Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Nunes, and Representative Reed sent a letter to the Biden Administration asking for a briefing from Health and Human Services officials regarding federal nursing home data collection.
  • March 2021
    • On March 5, Republican Leaders sent a letter renewing the request for a hearing on New York nursing home deaths and the data cover-up.

To date, House Democrats have not responded to repeated requests for hearings and have refused to take any action to get to the bottom New York Governor Cuomo’s actions with regard to New York’s nursing home residents. 

SUBCOMMITTEE: Health    SUBCOMMITTEE: Oversight