New York Governor Cuomo Says He'd Defy a Presidential Order Forcing Him to Reopen State: 'I Wouldn't Do It'

Governor Andrew Cuomo has no plans to follow a presidential order requiring him to reopen the state if it means endangering the public health of New York.

"I wouldn't do it," Cuomo told CNN New Day host Allison Camerota Tuesday. "We would have a constitutional challenge between the state and federal government and that would go to the courts."

Mitigation measures designed to curb the spread of a new coronavirus outbreak have taken a toll on the economy, causing massive unemployment numbers and stock market losses. President Donald Trump has pushed for people to get back to work sooner rather than later, and on Monday, he said the White House was "very close" to completing a plan to reopen the country.

Earlier in the day, Trump posted on Twitter that it was his decision, not the decision of the states, when to reopen and added during the briefing, "I have the ultimate authority."

Cuomo disagreed. The New York governor told CNN that the argument between federal and state powers was already had in the days of the Founding Fathers and when it comes to public health, state governments wield the power.

The 10th Amendment grants states authority over its public health, while the Commerce Clause gives the federal government power to implement quarantine and other health measures, according to the Congressional Research Service.

"Thus, state and local governments have the primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions, and the federal government has authority to quarantine and impose other health measures to prevent the spread of diseases from foreign countries and between states," the Congressional Research Service wrote in a 2014 report.

andrew cuomo defy trump order reopen coronavirus
Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the Jacob Javits Convention Center during the coronavirus pandemic on March 30 in New York City. On Tuesday, Cuomo said he would not follow an order from Trump to reopen the state if it meant endangering the public health of the state. Noam Galai/Getty

New York has had more than 195,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 10,000 deaths, according to the State Health Department. Cuomo advised Trump to "not even think of going there," with regard to a presidential order. The two leaders have been working together and he said the presidential order would be contrary to both the cooperative spirit of the response and his initial approach.

Trump declared a federal emergency and closed down the majority of travel to and from China, later adding Iran and 26 European countries to the list. He's also issued a 15-day plan, as well as a 30-day plan, to slow the spread of the virus, but those were social distancing guidelines, not mandates. So far, he's left the enactment of the policies, such as closing down non-essential businesses and restricting restaurants to take-out service, to the states.

It was up to the governors to decide what mitigation measures to take and convince people to adjust to the new normal, according to Cuomo. Had he not effectively communicated the need to close down the state, New Yorkers could have told him to "forget it."

"He left that to the governors," Cuomo told CNN of Trump. "He, I think, was very conservative in not getting engaged as a federal official ... this is a 180, I have total authority, I'm going to tell the states what to do."

All that said, it's possible that Trump's involvement with reopening the country on a state level could be confined to giving advice to governors. During Monday's briefing, Trump explained that his administration would provide governors with "new guidelines" to safely open their states.

During an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett on Monday, Cuomo acknowledged that guidelines are very different from the federal government enacting policies. But, he's not sure what Trump intended to do.

"So either you're doing a federal takeover or you're doing guidelines which the states can follow if they want to follow," Cuomo said. "He seems to be saying both so I don't really know."