Friday, November 07, 2008

Dem Leadership, Smashed to Smithereens?

The leverage of the four Democratic hold out senators, continues to grow, with the NY Daily News reporting that the group, while appearing to rule out supporting a Republican, simply refuses to back current minority leader Malcolm Smith: "Despite much speculation the group could strike a deal with the Republicans, Espada said, "It's possible, but highly unlikely." Instead, he said, they are hoping a consensus compromise Democrat can be found. That might be tough, too, since the rest of the Democratic caucus seems to support Smith. "We're not enamored with Smith, clearly, or we would have been in that room yesterday," he said of a closed-door Democratic conference Smith called Wednesday in Albany. "We do not believe ... given the way he has conducted himself that we can vote for him."

Where we go from here is anyone's guess, but the intransigence of the Gang of Four will increase in significance next week as the entire legislature returns at the governor's request. Meanwhile, as the NY Post tells us, the calls for greater Hispanic empowerment is having a desired effect (even though the paper confuses Kruger with Klein):

"State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith yesterday named former state Housing Commissioner Angelo Aponte to head his transition team - and to help him earn the support of three disaffected Hispanic Democrats who otherwise may try to keep the Senate in Republican hands, The Post has learned. What's more, Queens-based Smith may soon announce that Aponte, a one-time New York City consumer affairs commissioner, will become his chief of staff in January - if Smith becomes the Senate majority leader, said a source close to Smith."

While that move's a little better than setting up a Hispanic caucus, it remains to be seen whether it creates any real thawing of the antipathy for Smith. And the NY Times picks up on this point: "Pedro Espada Jr. and Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx said in separate interviews that in all likelihood, the Democrats would have a voting majority when the new Senate convened in January. While their remarks seemed to dash Republican hopes that they could hold onto control of the Senate, which they had had for four decades, the question of who would lead the Senate Democrats remained in doubt. Tuesday’s election increased the Democrats’ hold to 32 of the 62 seats."

All of this seems to mean that there's a great deal of wrangling ahead. As Kruger tells the Times: “This issue is not going to be resolved in the short order,” Mr. Kruger said. “This could take several weeks; this could take several months,” he said, adding that he believed there was some doubt within the Senate Democratic conference about whether Mr. Smith should be the leader.
“And that’s not going be solved because Malcolm wants to divvy up the committee chairmanships,” Mr. Kruger added. “There needs to be a retooling of the leadership.”

To some, it appears that the group have made themselves relevant, but lack a closing strategy. As the News points out: "A number of senators backing Smith believe the rogue members eventually will fall into line. "They've made themselves relevant, but right now they don't have an end game," one Democrat said. "We'll have to wait to see what they want."

Perhaps so, but it could also be that the conference may also be without a workable solution to the impasse; and the longer it remains the more leverage the four will have. As the Times underscores: "The demands of the four senators could set off a reshuffling of positions within the entire Senate leadership. Everything from majority leader and deputy majority leader to lower-ranking posts like assistant whip could be in flux."

What's clear at this point is that no one should be picking out the drapes yet. We'll see how it all plays out: "Carl Kruger of Brooklyn, the leader of the group of dissident senators, suggested that a long fight for Senate leadership positions was ahead. And he's probably right.