It’s been a rough day for the new Republican majority in the New York state Senate, which was achieved on Monday after two Democrats changed their organizational votes in order to flip control. They showed up to work today — and then couldn’t get anything done, and were ultimately shut down after one of the two switchers walked out of the chamber.
The state Senate Democrats are boycotting the legislature on the grounds that the coup on Monday was an illegal maneuver, and they’re even going to court to try to forbid it. (Democratic Gov. David Paterson is openly badmouthing this tactic, pointing out that legislative chambers have switched control like this throughout history.) But the up-shot of this is that all 32 members of the new majority have to be there in order to form a quorum or pass anything.
At any rate, the new GOP caucus — they officially call themselves a “coalition” — had to first get a key to just enter the chamber. Then they needed to formally open the desk containing the bills to be voted on. And it turned out that this desk was locked, and nobody had a key.At this point one of the two switchers, Hiram Monserrate of Queens, walked out of the meeting, thus depriving them of a quorum. In the face of press speculation that he might be walking out of the coalition entirely, he released a statement saying that he is reaching out to additional Democrats to join up, too. And the Albany Times Union thinks his speech earlier today, in which he said more Democrats must be involved, is open to interpretation.
Scott Reif, spokesman for Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos, downplayed the problems in an interview with TPM. “We were able to get into the Senate chamber and conduct the session. Obviously we couldn’t pass any bills, so because of that we laid the calendar aside for the day.” So if they can’t get the bills, what’s next — do they go through some procedure to get a key, or call a locksmith? “I don’t know,” said Reif. “At this point we’re scheduled to be back in session on Monday. So we’re hopeful that this’ll be solved by then.”
Reif also rebutted any insinuations that Monserrate may be getting ready to go back to the Dems. “I think what Sen. Skelos has said is that people said Sen. Monserrate was not going to be with us yesterday; he was with us yesterday. They said he would not be at the session today; he was at the session today,” said Reif. “Having said that, we have said that we’ll be reaching out to additional Democrats in order to grow the coalition. So we’re having ongoing discussions.”
A Democratic source in Albany told us that even if Monserrate were to go back, it would only be a 31-31 tied chamber — because the other switcher is Pedro Espada of the Bronx, who has been made state Senate President by the GOP, and is unlikely to go back. “The problem is neither one is sustainable — the coalition is not sustainable, and Democratic re-control is not sustainable,” the source said. “So there is no control…This may end up standing sort of by default.”