Kirsten Andersen

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Cuomo says refusal to release specifics on abortion bill is a strategy to win, then retracts

Kirsten Andersen
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ALBANY, NY, April 22, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he intends to pass legislation to expand access to abortion in the already abortion-friendly Empire State.  But he has steadfastly refused to offer specifics on his plan to do it, leaving pro-life organizations and legislators scrambling to develop a strategy to counteract a bill they haven't seen.

Some experts have speculated that Cuomo’s silence in the face of repeated calls by the New York Catholic Conference, pro-life groups and media to make the text of his abortion expansion bill public is a purposeful strategy designed to force would-be opponents to agree to a deal before the language of the bill is finalized.

“Why would you tell people what they don't need to know?" Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf told Newsday. He said early pro-life criticism of Cuomo’s abortion plan might give the governor an advantage during negotiations. “Sometimes it’s good to smoke out the opposition.”

At a press conference last week, Cuomo seemed to admit to exactly that.

“To put forth specifics when you don’t have an agreement, in my experience, polarizes the parties,” Cuomo told reporters with the Legislative Correspondents’ Association (LCA). “It makes it harder to come to an agreement because you push people to their respective corners. And I’ve found that counterproductive if your goal is actually to reach a consensus and reach an agreement, which by definition means that every person has to feel they were part of the solution, part of the win. When you start quantifying … it works against that.” 

Cuomo told reporters he thinks silence is a winning strategy. “Normally when we release bill language before an agreement, it means the probability of that bill passing is very, very low,” the governor said.

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Reporter Jimmy Vielkind questioned the governor. “Isn’t that a break from, you know, the basics of our legislative process?”

Cuomo answered, “Well, we put out the intended goals and desires.”

Vielkind pressed him, saying, “You put out press releases — supporting documents or statements. But people say they can’t judge your proposals unless they see the specifics.”

“They can judge the proposals,” Cuomo replied. “I’m not going to make you say four and me say six. So that now it’s hard for each of us to move, because you said four and I said six.”

After his remarks hit the Internet, the governor seems to have decided he’d said too much.  By the next day, he had drastically changed his tune.  He claimed in a radio interview with Susan Arbetter that he was just kidding around at the press conference. 

“I should have known better than to try to have fun with the LCA at a press conference,” Cuomo said. “I was poking at the point that there are proposals made, and proposed bills released. Sometimes it’s more about posturing and issuing a press release than a bona fide legislative proposal that is going to be pursued in good faith.”

“There are bills and there are bills. Some bills are for press releases,” he continued. “Some are just posturing. That was the point I was trying to make.”

Reporter Vieklind responded to Cuomo’s statements on his blog with sarcasm and a little skepticism.

“Sorry I missed the comedic cue,” Vieklind wrote. “I can’t help but note, though, that Cuomo did not commit to releasing bill language regarding his abortion rights measure or, more recently, his proposals to crack down on public corruption.”

Added Vieklind, “Recall: Cuomo has said he will run the most open and transparent administration since Justinian.”

In a video released today, the group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms criticized Cuomo for what they said was his lack of transparency.

“Last week, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo told the media that it is unwise to let bill language see the light of day before an agreement to pass that bill is in place. Later, the Governor said that he had been joking. If he was joking, the joke is on us,” Jason McGuire, the group’s executive director, said in a statement Monday.

“Governor Cuomo promised New Yorkers transparency. So far, he has failed to deliver. The Governor’s self-described greatest legislative accomplishments—same-sex ‘marriage’ and gun control—were each brought about through corrupt, undemocratic processes and backroom deals done in the dark.” 

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