TRENTON, N.J. – The day after a federal investigation laid the blame for veterans home deaths squarely on Gov. Phil Murphy and his administration’s Covid policies, Assemblyman Brian Bergen says Democrats’ day-after calls to do more is hypocritical at best.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey released a damning report Thursday morning, detailing the Murphy administration’s litany of failures in two veterans homes that led to the death of at least 200 residents and staff members during the Covid-19 pandemic. The investigation found that the state provided and continues to provide “unconstitutionally deficient care” at those homes in Paramus and Menlo Park, violating residents’ and staff 14th Amendment right to reasonable care and safety.
“I seem to remember Murphy writing off any constitutional considerations as being ‘above his pay grade,’” Bergen (R-Morris) said referencing comments made by the governor during a Fox News interview in 2020. “If it wasn’t a concern for him then, it certainly is now, but sadly it’s too late for hundreds of our veteran families.”
Bergen said that four times Assembly Republicans called on Democrats to rein in Murphy.
“They voted lockstep in favor of the governor and his unelected bureaucrats ruling over the state unchecked by voting to table our bill,” Bergen said. “They actively denied the Legislature its voice to represent the people of New Jersey.”
Bergen, along with then-Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, on four occasions – June 18 and Nov. 16, 2020; May 20, 2021; and Jan. 10, 2022 – sought move legislation that would limit the governor’s emergency powers to 14 days unless extended by the Legislature. Democrats tabled those motions each time. Instead, Murphy was allowed to extend his emergency powers dozens of times until he signed executive order 292, which lifted most public health emergency dictates as of March 4, 2022.
However, the report stressed that the policy and practice failures at Paramus and Menlo Park continue to today, with death rates still historically high and employee moral low. “Broad failures in leadership and management are a significant factor in the harms identified in the [veterans homes],” the report states.
“Democrats aren’t appalled at the reports’ findings. They’re appalled their policies and the destruction and devastation they caused and still cause are in black-and-white for all to see,” Bergen added. “They had three years to do something. They did something: they ignored calls for accountability, transparency, and action to protect our most vulnerable populations. Their promises for change now are empty.”