Two dissident Democrats, who had been secretly strategizing with Republicans for weeks, bucked their party’s leaders and joined with 30 Republican senators to form what they said would be a bipartisan power-sharing deal. But the arrangement effectively re-establishes Republican control.
The change upends the agenda in Albany, where Democrats had assumed power in the Senate in January, with 32 seats, after more than 40 years in the minority. Democrats were pushing bills to give tenants more rights, strengthen abortion rights and legalize same-sex marriage this session. And the move underscores the continuing tumult of New York politics, where there have been three governors in less than three years and four Senate presidents since last summer.
Democratic leaders were caught off guard as the Republicans and the two Democratic dissidents, Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, moved to topple them, and at one point became so flustered that they turned out the lights in the Senate chamber to try to prevent Republicans from installing new leaders.
Asked by a reporter what was occurring, Senator Malcolm A. Smith, leader of the Senate Democrats who was huddled in the hall with his staff, responded, “I’m trying to find out right now.”
A spokesman for Mr. Smith, who lost the titles of majority leader and Senate president in the shakeup, issued a statement later saying that Democrats would challenge the vote, but it was not clear that they had grounds to do so.
Gov. David A. Paterson, at a news conference Monday evening, called the move “an outrage” and said Albany had become a “dysfunctional wreck.”
The governor also said “I will not allow this,” but then conceded that there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Both Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate said they would remain Democrats even as they work with Republicans to run the Senate.
Both men have legal troubles. Highlighting the often elastic nature of ethical stands and alliances in Albany, Republicans who earlier this year were calling on Mr. Monserrate to resign after his indictment on felony charges that he stabbed his companion with a broken glass are now welcoming him as part of their power-sharing coalition.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
A Little Legislative Humor
If you need something to cheer your afternoon, it's almost certain that you can congratulate yourself that your workplace is more functional than the New York State Government, which seems to be having trouble adjusting to a sudden change in leadership: