Senate Deal Crumbles
December 10th, 2008
Just in case you thought all the state government dysfunction was in Illinois: The deal between Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith and the so-called Gang of Three — Pedro Espada, Ruben Diaz and Carl Kruger — has collapsed, the Daily Politics reports.
Smith broke off negotiations this morning. “We would rather wait two more years to take charge of the Senate than to simply serve the interests of the few,” Smith said in a statement. “New York State cannot afford the type of self-serving politics being proposed, and I will not be the leader to sacrifice what is right for New York for a quick political solution.”
The deal split power between a president pro tem (Smith) and a majority leader (Espada), gave Kruger a powerful committee post and, to satisfy Diaz, committed the Senate to not approving same sex marriage this year. But over the last day the accord began unraveling. Some Senate Democrats were unhappy at the concessions Smith made to the three. Then the “gang” accused Smith of trying to wiggle out of some aspects of the agreement. A dispute arose over how much power Espada would wield and what his leadership stipend would be.
“I feel tremendously dismayed and disappointed that the office of the majority leader has been gutted and reduced to a sad joke on all New Yorkers, but particularly the Latino community,” Espada said yesterday and then proceeded to “suspend” his support for Smith.
The decision to hold off on same-sex marriage caused concern too, finally prompting Smith to say, “We cannot limit the civil rights of New Yorkers.” (For more on the State Senate and same sex marriage, go here.)
Now what? The Democrats hold a 32-30 edge (assuming Republican Frank Padavan holds on to his seat). But will the Gang of Three side with the Republicans and make Dean Skelos majority leader (though Skelos has reportedly said he wouldn’t accept the kind of deal Smith initially agreed to)? Or the Daily Politics’ Liz Benjamin asks, could Smith find some renegade Republicans? Could another Democrat come in as leader and save the day for the party?
Spin Cycle thinks it does not look good for Smith. “If there were doubts about Malcolm Smith’s readiness to govern, you can now triple them,” the blog says. “He seemed to make a deal that was an embarrassment, then reneged on it, and now pretends it didn’t really happen.”
On the other hand, it says, his party could come out ahead: “By refusing concessions, the Dems will either get a more dignified, workable majority now by forcing the gang to fold, or significant electoral advantages that will allow them to secure a more dominant majority in 2010. Waiting out two years that will be a budget cutting nightmare in Albany is not the worst thing in the world.”By Gail Robinson on December 10, 2008, 1:31 pm
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