Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the reins of the National Governors Association Wednesday, building upon the national spotlight he has grabbed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The association of 26 Republican and 24 Democratic governors held its summer meeting virtually, naming Cuomo as Chair and Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas as Vice Chair.
"Next year's agenda is not really a question of discretion, but rather the dictation of reality," Cuomo said. "Our agenda is: America's Recovery and Revival."
Cuomo urged his fellow governors to "institutionalize" what has been learned from MERS, SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu and now COVID.
"No one can tell us the name of the next virus or bacteria to attack us, but everyone tells us that it's just a matter of time," he said. "Let us design and implement a new public health system for this nation, because we just cannot go through this again."
Hutchinson said he is not concerned about Cuomo using the association as a platform to take digs at the Trump administration, only that the New York Democrat advocate on behalf of problems facing all states, such as being able to increase virus testing and shore up their budgets against the steep economic drop caused by the pandemic.
“The common interest of these governors is not a partisan agenda,” said University of Illinois at Chicago Political Science professor Chris Mooney. “Cuomo as a smart person is not going to raise those issues because he knows they’ll fracture the coalition.”
Cuomo already has brought some governors together to collaborate on issues such as travel restrictions, and sent his staff to help other states with testing, tracing and protective gear.
“Here’s one of the biggest national crises going on in the country and these governors are in the spotlight, empowered on this issue,” said political consultant Harry Giannoulis, a former senior aide to Cuomo’s late father and former governor, Mario Cuomo. “And here’s Andrew Cuomo, who’s widely seen as having handled this issue.”
The third-term governor could use his new national platform to seek more uniformity among states in how they respond to the virus surge. Cuomo’s elevated profile could also help the governors association become more influential as it lobbies for more federal aid, which remains a contentious bargaining point as congressional Democrats and Republicans struggle to compromise on another big coronavirus relief package.
"The NGA is united in telling our Washington colleagues that they must include $500 billion in unrestricted state funding in the upcoming COVID response legislation," Cuomo said. "It is a top NGA priority."