Who is in Charge Here?
June 10th, 2009
The fight for control of the Senate raged on today, stopping any legislating from taking place.
Sen. Hiram Monserrate is under considerable pressure from labor groups, activists and Al Sharpton to rejoin the Democratic fold. It is said that having a few more Democrats join the new “bipartisan” coalition might give him some cover.
Sen. Pedro Espada and the Republicans are strategizing to make that happen. Espada said he planned to have dinner with ten Democrats who might switch sides. But he would not name them. Sen. Carl Kruger met with Espada in his office this evening.
And the plan seems to be to use issues like gay marriage to try to draw Democrats into their alliance. There have been reports that Sen. Tom Duane is considering supporting the new coalition if it moves on gay marriage–a charge his representatives have denied.
Some insiders say a vote on gay marriage could come as early as next week, as long as the new coalition maintains control of the Senate.
When Monserrate gave a short statement to the press today he† mentioned legislation that would end vacancy decontrol –perhaps trying to allay fears that Espada is trying to bottle up the bill.
Meanwhile, Democratic strategy relies on ousting Smith as majority leader and replacing him with Sen. John Sampson. Liz Benjamin is reporting that a source told her Monserrate wants just that to happen. A number of sources have said that Smith’s time as leader of the Senate Democrats is almost certainly over at this point. His fate may become clearer after Democrats meet this evening. Even with Monserrate it is not clear what would change. Meanwhile, Smith intends to challenge the legality of the Republican takeover in court. Members of the new coalition say they are not in the least bit concerned about that.
Republicans had planned to hold a state Senate session today, but that didn’t work out. Swarms of reporters, lobbyists, local government officials and Senate staffers packed into the lobby outside the Senate chamber and waited to see if the chamber doors would be opened–and who would show up. Lines formed to get into the upstairs Senate gallery, but no one came to open the doors. The Senate chambers remained dark.
Senate staffers and other employees wondered openly during elevator trips about their job security and asked who was in charge. “This is scary. We don’t know what is happening,” said a woman to her friend. The gossip on everyone’s lips was about the status of Sen. Hiram Monserrate and his possible return to the Democratic fold.
Monserrate had spent the day negotiating by turns with Democrats who are pressuring him to return to their fold and Republicans who want to maintain his support.
Press lined up in front of the office of Sen. Dean Skelos, and finally Skelos emerged with† Espada and† Monserrate. Staffers screamed for reporters to get out of the way as the three made their way to the doors of the Senate. There was a crush to get into the hall.
Finally, Monserrate spoke, but revealed little. He said he asked that the session be delayed until tomorrow to allow discussion with Democratic senators to continue.
“I made a request that we give an opportunity, because there are several conversations that have occurred over the past two days.” He added that he wants to work with Skelos and Espada. Reporters shouted, “What do you want?”† Some reports say Monserrate is concerned about mounting legal bills accrued from his assault charge.
As the conference broke up, Espada proudly held up the key to the Senate chambers. He would not reveal how be obtained it. A woman in a clown suit (hired by the New York Post) frolicked at his side. Republicans will try to hold session again tomorrow.By David King on June 10, 2009, 7:20 pm
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