Monday, December 22, 2008

Senate Stenosis

Well, we're almost past the twelve days of Christmas, and Malcolm Smith is still without the senate leadership in his stocking-and it doesn't look like it will happen so soon. As Liz Benjamin writes this morning, commenting on the Monserrate snafu and the Golden threat to try to prevent him from being seated: "A resolution vote could be complicated by the so-called Gang of Three - three renegade senators who have refused to pledge their loyalty to Smith following the collapse of a power-sharing deal that would have greatly enhanced their clout. Without them, Smith is three votes shy of the 32 he needs to be majority leader. Losing Monserrate would put Smith at 28 votes. The Republicans have 29, with the election of incumbent Republican Queens Sen. Frank Padavan still tied up in court."

Of course, the three amigos are still out there-and who knows how they'll react to the Monserrate incident: "Monserrate used to be allied with the renegades - Sen. Carl Kruger, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Sen.-elect Pedro Espada Jr. - but abandoned them to cut his own deal with Smith. Members of the Gang of Three have not forgotten how he turned his back on them."

The resolution here could go in any number of different ways-Smith could be unseated, or elevated; or Skelos and the Republicans could sneak in. The stalemate could, however, remain unresolved for weeks, just when quick action on the dire state budget is needed: "The turmoil in the Senate is happening as the state faces one of it's worst budget deficits ever, a combined $15billion dollar gap. Governor David Paterson, who wants the legislature to act swiftly on spending cuts and new taxes and fees in the New Year, remains unconcerned, at least publicly, about the disarray, and says he'll work with either party."

All of this is further complicated by the fact that the Padavan recount also is in limbo; with an appeal of a judge's inane decision to count paper ballots that both Democrats and Republicans had discarded as flawed. If the court decision expected today isn't final, that Skelos and company only have 29 votes: "Residents of the 11th state Senate district in northeast Queens may be without an Albany representative next month as the legal wrangling over that seat continues. An appellate court is expected to decide today whether the Board of Elections should resume counting almost 2,000 paper ballots previously marked invalid. Republicans are expected to appeal any decision that allows those ballots to be counted."

So it may be necessary for the governor to intervene here if he wants to get swift action on his austere budget proposals. Without leadership, the senate is basically out of business; kinda like the state of New York's government in general.