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Say This For Ben Nelson: He Voted For Harry Reid As Majority Leader

[ 73 ] December 5, 2012 |

Ah, the New York Senate, the world’s second worst deliberative body:

New York Republicans joined forces with a group of dissident Democrats on Tuesday to form what they called a “bipartisan governing coalition” to run the State Senate, preventing the Democratic Party from taking control even after it appeared to have won a majority of Senate seats in elections last month.

The announcement was the latest twist in a state capital that has had more than its share in recent years, with a string of leadership squabbles, corruption investigations and sex scandals that at times crippled the government and made Albany a laughingstock.

The power-sharing deal announced Tuesday was a victory for New York Republicans, who are outnumbered 2-to-1 in the state’s electorate and who fared unexpectedly poorly in a series of Senate races last month. The exact outcome of the election remains unclear, because ballots in two close races are still being counted, but the consensus in Albany is that the Democrats won more seats than the Republicans.

[...]

Mr. Skelos said in a statement, “Senator Klein has proven to be a thoughtful and effective leader, and I look forward to partnering with him to move this state forward.”

But a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, Mike Murphy, called the deal between Mr. Skelos and Mr. Klein “not a coalition but a coup against all New Yorkers who voted for Democratic control of the Senate and a progressive state government.”

And it’s worth nothing as well that it’s not as of the Independent Democratic Caucus De Facto Republican Assholes Who Hate Democracy come from rural districts where they might see electoral necessity in appearing independent. Simcha Felder, who was crucial in triggering the coup, is a representative from Brooklyn, and Malcolm Smith is a representative from Queens (just like Hiram Monserrate, the criminal domestic abuser who led the anti-democratic coup in 2009.)

And, by the way, I’m sure Andrew Cuomo talked to Democratic fundraisers to do what he could to ensure that the Senate reflected the will of the voters, right?:

In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spokesman called the new coalition an “internal legislative matter,” but a supportive statement by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, his pick to co-chair the Democratic State Commitee, was taken as a sign of Cuomo’s blessing. A source told Andrew Hawkins that Klein had run the arrangement past Cuomo before proceeding.

I don’t know if Cuomo actually has any presidential ambitions, but if he runs he’ll make Lieberman 2004 look like a juggernaut. That’s one effect of Obama endorsing SSM: by committing the Democratic Party to it, it ensures that if Cuomo thinks that his getting a same-sex marriage bill passed will save him, he’s delusional. It’s not going to be an issue in the 2016 primaries.

Comments (73)

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  1. John says:

    Why does this keep happening? Who are these “Democrats,” why do they prefer to have Republicans in control of the State Senate, and why do they keep winning elections?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      That last question is the most important one. Even in much more difficult contexts finding Democrats who will vote for Democrats to lead the legislature doesn’t seem like that much of a challenge.

      • Dana Houle says:

        I don’t think it’s about “finding Democrats” as much as safe districts w competitive primaries. These people almost certainly weren’t recruited or worked with the caucus the way a Congressional candidate in a competitive district is. It’s more like if John Conyers and Diana DeGette and Peter Welch and Jim McDermott and Elijah Cummings or people from similar districts could easily be bought off by the Republicans. Doesn’t happen in DC, but it’s pretty common, obviously, in NY.

      • Avedon says:

        It might be illuminating to listen to this episode of Virtually Speaking in which Paul Newell and Stuart Zechman talk about just how and why NY politics is so messed up. And how to fix it.

    • howard says:

      john, you beat me to my more or less exact questions: i can’t say i keep up with the new york state legislature, but when i first read of the this deal brewing a couple days ago, i literally couldn’t believe it.

      who are these clowns, what is the back story, and what is their motivation?

      (not cuomo, him i get: he’s an ambitious jerk typical of the dinos who hang out in the democratic party because they’re scared of the thugs that run the other side, but is that the story for these moron legislators too?)

      • oldswede says:

        Andy Cuomo is the privileged son of a great Democratic governor, Mario Cuomo. This heir-to-the-throne status may grate on Andy and he is trying to prove that he is his own self by becoming a DINO. Maybe he has daddy issues like another legacy cowboy who was in the news a lot a while back.
        oldswede

    • calling all toasters says:

      They are generally either anti-Muslim (e.g. Felder) or anti-gay (e.g. Smith) bigots, and that still sells in the outer boroughs.

    • actor212 says:

      I sense Cuomo’s hand in this, as well. I think he wanted a divided government so he could fashion legislative proposals that he knew would go nowhere but that he could point to during the 2016 primaries as evidence of his intent.

      Meanwhile, the legislation that DOES get passed gets to look all bipartisan which will serve him well in the general, if he makes it that far (I doubt it. He’s got zero camera presence.)

      • David in NY says:

        “zero camera presence”

        And he sounds worse. Like your whiny teen-ager. Ugh.

        And he’s a horrible person. As attorney general he simply would not make any decision until he’d considered its political aspects for a year and a half or so. It wasn’t about running a good agency, it was only about running his subsequent campaign. (I say this on the authority of one of his bureau heads who — having survived the tenure of the appalling Dennis Vacco — couldn’t take it any more. He made being a lawyer impossible — having to have the last word on everything and not being willing to take responsibility for a decision.)

    • Gepap says:

      You only need to meet the leadership of the Dem. conference in the state senate to answer that question. Sadly Scott does not, so he can only see through party blinders.

    • Chester Allman says:

      It’s a relatively simple question of incentives. If I’m strong enough in my district (or at least I think I’m strong enough) to avoid any serious primary challenges, then I can ask myself: how do I maximize my leverage? If I’m not in line for the leadership role I want within my own party, I can cut a deal with the other party.

      Essentially, in a closely divided Senate, the IDC Dems (and their predecessors) function like a small swing party in a multi-party legislature, and form a coalition with whoever will give them the best deal. Of course, their motives are not necessarily ideological, but the system of incentives is quite similar nonetheless.

  2. actor212 says:

    Mal Smith WAS Senate leader last term until Monserrate and the other thug criminal, Espada, jumped ship. Smith got thrown under the bus in the ensuing negotiations.

    • Sherm says:

      Thought so. So, after being victimized by the last coup, he participates in this one?

      • actor212 says:

        I think it was the grand “fuck you” he wanted to make last term but was persuaded not to.

        • Sherm says:

          On further thought, there have been rumors of him running for mayor as a republican, and this may have been done in furtherance of such ambitions.

          • Janos says:

            Republicans county chairs have already made it clear that he won’t be their standard-bearer in 2013.

            • actor212 says:

              That won’t necessarily stop him from trying, plus he can argue back that he carries a sizable minority following with him, something Republicans are a bit sensitive about after this cycle.

              • Reasonable 4ce says:

                There are black DINOs (not many, but a few) and Malcolm Smith is one. He learned from the master, former Congressman Floyd Flake.

                If Malcolm Smith ran for mayor, he would get clobbered in the general election, especially after this bullshit. Unlike Bloomberg, he would have hardly any money. Unlike Giuliani circa 1993, he would have no obvious rationale for his candidacy.

                It might be moot anyway. In order to run as a Repuke in 2013, Smith would have had to have changed his party registration last October. Anyone know if he did that?

  3. actor212 says:

    Simcha Feder is an ultra-Orthodox Jew who, like Dov Hikind, is a Dem only because there are some actual non-Jews in his district whom he has to depend on for votes. For 75% of his term, Feder rails only about Israel and anti-Semitism, and the final 25% he spends making backroom deals with the other groups in his district to secure his seat.

  4. John Glover says:

    What is always the driver of politics in the State (and City) of New York?

    Come on, you know, what is our most powerful “industry?”

    The answer to that question tells you all you need to know about why this is happening.

  5. rea says:

    Well, isn’t the one thing that unites these DINOS and the Republican minority opposition to gay marriage? So, they are united in their opposition to what supposedly is Cuomo’s signature issue?

    • actor212 says:

      I’m not sure it’s that big a deal. It sure wasn’t in the state when it passed, only a couple of yahoos ranted for a day or two about it, even if upstate NY is redder than Alabama on most issues.

      It could be as simple as they hate Cuomo.

    • Gepap says:

      Simcha Felder might oppose same sex marriage, but the other five supported it – every original member of the IDC voted for same sex marriage when it went to a vote and voted for it back in 2009 (look up Sen. Savino’s pro-same sex marriage speech on YouTube, its quite funny).

      The most fervant anti-same sex marriage Senator the Dems. have is Reverend Diaz, and he is supposedly one of the “good guys” in this construction.

  6. Sherm says:

    I don’t know if Cuomo actually has any presidential ambitions, but if he runs he’ll make Lieberman 2004 look like a juggernaut.

    I guess he’ll have “Cuomentum.”

  7. Joe says:

    Simcha Felder replaced someone else who was an “independent” and a conservative leaning Democrat coming from some parts of NYC is not exactly surprising. And, at least he clearly made noises before he was voted in that he was open to this.

    Sen. Diane Savino is another one — she’s from Staten Island, which you know, wanted to secede from the city recently. Jeffrey Klein is another matter. He does represent some areas that have conservative leaning sorts but it is more surprising that he joined the club. But, I am not aware of him telling people who voted for him that he would do something like this.

    The last time something like this happened, the four reprobates involved in a temporary change in control (including three who had serious legal problems and the one Dem who voted against SSM) left a lot to be desired. If control is so closely divided, such opportunists will be there to seek theirs. The brief change in control was a mess and led to this independent group.

    Klein and Savino, to my knowledge, are not just reprobates but if people vote for more Democrats than Republicans, I think they should expect Democrats to control the chamber.

    • actor212 says:

      Klein is the intriguing figure in all this, to be sure. He’s written some progressive legislation like the Do Not Call Registry, and was also James Scheuer’s chief of staff.

      Scheuer was one of the last members of the New York Liberal party actually elected to statewide office

    • andrewsomething says:

      Savino’s my State Senator, and I’m pretty pissed. Her district is *north* Staten Island, Sunset Park and Coney Island. It’s a majority minority district. I can assure you Stapleton, Tompkinsville, and New Brighton weren’t among those who wanted to secede from the city.

  8. Murc says:

    Can we not call this a coup, please?

    I mean, it’s a dick move on the part of Senate Democrats, and it totally violates norms, but it’s not illegitimate.

    I’m reminded of a few years back when it looked like a coalition of all the other parties in Canada might band together to oust Harper. (This was back when the Tories had a minority government.) That violated Canadian governing norms, which have traditionally been that the party with the most seats forms a government, but because they have a parliamentary system it was entirely legitimate; the guy with the most votes gets to be PM.

    The Tories went apeshit, talking about ‘coups’ and ‘violations of the will of the people’ and ‘power grabs’ while the press nodded along and Harper got away with a prorogue, of all things, in order to buy time to launch a PR blitz.

    This is a pretty shocking act of betrayal on the part of State Senate Democrats. As a New Yorker I am super pissed off; I’ve lived under a Republican Senate all my life and its been awful for the state, just awful. The people responsible for this, especially those in solidly blue districts, should be hounded from the party; there are certain minimum behavioral standards expected and this is one of them. As Scott says, even Ben Nelson could be relied on to vote for Harry Reid.

    But this isn’t a coup. That’s a loaded scare term, and we’re supposed to be better than that.

    • Joe says:

      I’m inclined to agree and also am interested in the rules set up, including reports that various progressive bits of legislation will get a vote. Moving past being upset and all, how this actually will work is pretty important.

      In an ideal world, honestly, having a few actual independent characters balancing a state legislature and this results in a power sharing agreement is not horrible.

      I don’t trust state Republicans here though and say so as a long term NY resident.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I mean, it’s a dick move on the part of Senate Democrats, and it totally violates norms, but it’s not illegitimate.

      It certainly is. Party ID is what makes elections meaningful. When voters select a Democratic majority, they should be represented by one. And your analogy to the Canadian situation utterly fails because the Tories didn’t have a majority. See the difference?

      • Devin McCullen says:

        As far as party ID goes, the original 4 (not counting Smith) had formed their own conference well before the election. It wasn’t hard to see something like this coming. I don’t think anyone tried to seriously primary them. If the party won’t control what it’s ID means, what are the voters supposed to do?

        Or to put it another way, it’s hard for me to really call it a coup against the Democratic Party when it’s being abetted by the most powerful person in the Democratic Party.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Yes, it’s more of a bipartisan coup against the will of the New York electorate.

          • Gepap says:

            Voters don’t vote for legislative leadership – and they don’t vote for party lists, they vote for individuals with individual will. What “voter will” was subverted, exactly?

            • boba says:

              Way back when, I mentioned to a friend that we must be a “Nation of Idiots” because only an idiot looks to a fool for guidance or leadership. This is nothing more than the chickens coming home to roost. Too many vote for whatever letter is appended to the candidate name. Voters do not evaluate positions or character of representative, they choose based on a letter. As a result they receive the government they deserve, and they get it good and hard. There’s no subversion of voter will, it’s you asked for it, now you have it. NY is as dysfunctional and corrupt as any political entity that has ever existed, this is a mere blip on the overall picture. NY (and the nation) will continue to be ruled by a dysfunctional and corrupt ruling class if the only criteria applied to voter choice is political affiliation.

      • Murc says:

        Party ID is what makes elections meaningful.

        To an extent, but that’s not what the actual rules say. State Senators are free to vote for whoever they want to to lead them in the Senate regardless of party label. If you disagree with that, that’s fine, but its not a ‘coup’ if they install someone you disagree with, anymore than it’s a ‘coup’ every time Mitch McConnell refused to let Harry Reid govern by invoking supermajority requirements.

        When voters select a Democratic majority, they should be represented by one.

        Are they not? The Senate has the exact same number of Democrats as it did before some of them pulled this asinine shit. Some of those Democrats are choosing to represent their constituents extremely poorly. That doesn’t mean they stop representing.

        You constantly berate people, and rightly so, for thinking we live in some sort of parliamentary democracy when in fact we do not, Scott. Well, that cuts both ways. We don’t have proportional representation. We don’t have a system that’s designed around the assumption people vote for parties as opposed to individuals. When those individuals gather together a majority of their like-minded fellows to enact their preferred policy, it is NOT an illegitimate exercise of their power. It may not be good governance, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

        And your analogy to the Canadian situation utterly fails because the Tories didn’t have a majority.

        Neither did the parties opposing them. The Liberals, NDP, and Bloc had to cobble together a majority out of more than one party.

        Much as the State Senators in New York have done.

      • Gepap says:

        In a state that allows for cross-endorsements, that isn’t really true. Jeff Klein ran as the Democratic, Republican, Independent, and Working Families Party candidate for his district.

        The leadership of at least three of those parties (this is including the Dem. leadership) has no problem with his move.

  9. newyorker says:

    We need this law signed into law. And then we need to use it to bash these political hacks into submission.

    http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S5190-2011

  10. Ebenezer Scrooge says:

    White Queens and (nonhipster) Brooklyn would be Republican except that the Republican Party has no organizational strength outside of Staten Island. All the jv pols therefore identify as Democrats, and are stuck with this identity when they grow up.

    Add to this the fact that the beards (big in Brooklyn, if not Queens) always want to back a winner, and you’ve got a lot of Rs in Democratic drag.

    • John says:

      (nonhipster) Brooklyn? Really? Brooklyn is 34% Black, 20% Hispanic, and 10% Asian – that’s 64% primarily Democratic demographics, plus whatever Hipsters.

      • John says:

        Or, I now see that you may mean White (non-hipster) Brooklyn. In which case, sure, but how much of the borough is that? 20-25%?

    • David in NY says:

      C’mon. White non-hipster brownstone and co-op owners in the Heights, the Slope, Fort Greene, etc., are Democrats through and through. You can keep one Republican (Marty Golden?) in the Senate from Brooklyn, but even an organized Republican party couldn’t do better than one more.

  11. Will says:

    I just don’t like the Cuomos, both father & son are love with the sound of their own voices. The same slow, deliberate and ponderous way of talking that the rubes think that is how smart people talk.

    Mario threw Dinkens under the bus after the rioys, also lobbied to help Murdoch re-gain ownership of the NY Post despite the fact it was illegal to do so at the time. You know what the Post then helped Pataki defeat Cuomo.

    The Cuomos are the worst sort of Democrats, not afraid to screw their fellow part members over if they see an advantage in it

  12. snarkout says:

    And this is after Cuomo gave the State Senate Republicans license to gerrymander the state to within an inch of its life, including both overpacking downstate districts and underpacking upstate ones and adding a 63rd seat, which they expected to go Republican. I hope the knowledge that he will never be president eats away at his liver.

  13. Josh G. says:

    New York should simply abolish the state Senate and move to a unicameral legislature.

    • Murc says:

      God, that’d be amazing.

      Frankly, starting in on the state level would be a good start towards national reform. State governments do not have to be set up to mirror-image every idiotic arrangement of the national one, except for in certain ways, so going state-by-state abolishing bicamerality would be excellent proof of concept.

      Not that there’s much appetite for structural reform to begin with.

      • RedSquareBear says:

        It’s not even a good mirror, at least not in Wisconsin (and it seems pretty much anywhere). The counties don’t each get 2 Senators or anything like that (also note that in most places this would result in a massively larger Senate than Assembly). It’s just an Assembly with larger districts.

        Even if I don’t necessarily like the U.S. Senate I understand what it was created to be (the legislature for the states, as opposed to the House: the legislature of the people). That’s obviously not the case anymore, and there are pretty good and obvious reasons why, but it’s not at all clear why states have to have a bicameral legislature for any reason beyond atavism.

        • Chester Allman says:

          This has been a hobbyhorse of mine for a while. There is no good practical or theoretical reason why state legislatures should be bicameral. There’s atavism, as you point out (the older state senates, I believe, are descended from colonial councils which originally had their own logic), and of course there’s patronage. But there’s no good reason.

    • laym says:

      Seconded, if WP allows it.

    • Dennis says:

      The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.

  14. Johnny Sack says:

    What is it with the tristate area and its shit candidates? I’d sooner allow myself to be eaten alive by a pack of wild wolves than vote Cuomo for prez. Add Booker to that list. If they ever get the nom, may be the first time I vote third party.

  15. Matthew Stevens says:

    This is nothing new: A Kennedy/Wagner feud prevented the Dems from taking the chamber in the 1964 sweep.

    I guess the question is… why are New York’s Democrats such fratricidal assholes? Why will so many abandon the party the second a Republican waves a dollar bill under their noses? It isn’t political necessity; for most of the isle-crossers this will wreck their (political) careers.

    (Full disclosure: I worked for the Senate Democrats — gee, I’m so happy I hitched a ride on that rising star — and would probably return to full-time work with them if they regained the majority.)

  16. laym says:

    There won’t be much in the way of repercussions for these party-jumpers. NYS voters are just not that engaged with the state legislature and won’t offer much in the way of punishment.

    As far as what motivates the legiscritters to do this kind of thing, it’s all about the bennies, from what I can tell. Bigger offices, bigger compensation. Ego stroking. High-minded stuff like that.

  17. Joe says:

    I don’t know enough about other states to determine that the NY Senate is worse than every single legislative chamber outside of the U.S. Senate.

    • Chester Allman says:

      Thing is, as bad as they NYS legislature is, I’ll take it in a second over any system involving initiative and/or referendum. I moved to NY from CA, and while a hidebound legislature has a lot of drawbacks, it beats the ungovernable mess that California has become (and my native state, Washington, seems to be sliding that way with all its bullshit Tim Eyeman tax initiatives).

  18. CJColucci says:

    Because of redistricting, I’m now in Klein’s district. Used to be the district of felons Pedro Espada and Efraim Gonzalez, after redistricting took then-Senator Eric Schneiderman away. There was a short period after Espada when I was represented by someone not yet provably thuggish and dishonest. Maybe I should move.

  19. Dan says:

    Why are New York Democrats either a bunch of squishes or provably criminal thugs?

  20. Gepap says:

    The overall Democratic establishment in New York hasn’t given a shit about this move for a very simple reason:

    The Senate Democratic conference is a joke and they don’t know how to wield power. All of you complaining about this “betrayal” need to read up on who actually makes up the Senate Dem. conference before you start talking. Half the conference is made up of all timers who got elected when being a Democrat in the senate was a joke and all it meant was a cushy job and title. They are also the ones with seniority. Even before the coup in June 2009 the Senate Dems. had pissed everyone off. You won;t see anyone in the veto proof Assembly leadership crying about this.

  21. Chatham says:

    Hmm…what are you saying that Cuomo should have done?

  22. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Why exactly is NY’s state legislature full of crooks? I sort of get the machine politics, but the self-perpetuating nature of it mystifies me: a few high profile crooks go to jail or take pleas every few years, and apprentice crooks take their place.

  23. [...] mass of city statistics (I too, am less than overwhelmed) Say This For Ben Nelson: He Voted For Harry Reid As Majority Leader The Problem With Mike Lee Clerical Pay at the Port of LA: An Update (initial reports are biased [...]

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