Thursday, January 08, 2009

Senate Post Mortems

Spin Cycle has an interesting take on the deal that was struck to elevate the Three Amigos to positions of power that they likely wouldn't have had just two short months ago: "The deal lets Carl Kruger jump into the powerful post of Finance Committee chairman, and makes Pedro Espada head of Housing and Community Development, vice-chair of the powerful Rules Committee and Vice President of the Senate for Urban Policy. Ruben Diaz gets the Committee on Aging. All of them get some of your money as lu-lus. The deal, with minor changes, is the same as the deal Smith backed out of in December. It's an ugly thing to reward disloyalty. And Smith starts out looking like a buffoon -- caving into blackmail, then uncaving and denouncing the deal he had cut, then turning around after a Christmas break and caving in again, cutting the same deal."

So why did Smith accede? "But the simple fact is that the Gang of Three had leverage, Smith wasn't going to get his heart's desire unless he paid them off, so he did -- with the full consent of his conference. It's a tacky beginning that doesn't suggest we're in for an era of high-minded governance -- but it's not like Joe Bruno and Dean Skelos offered that either."

But Smith also announced some reforms-with more promised to follow that should hopefully divert attention away from all of the sausage making. As the Politicker tells us: "Smith also pledged several rules reforms, including measures that would record votes to discharge bills from committees and that pertain to amendments on the floor will be recorded (they are not currently under a rule known as 'canvass of agreement'). More rules reforms were promised, and will be announced in two months after a commission studying the chamber makes recommendations, Smith spokesman Austin Shafran said."

Someone asked us whether Smith would be a weaker leader than Joe Bruno was; which we believe is an unfair question. If Malcolm truly believes in reform-and goes about implementing it-he will not wield the kind of autocratic authority that Bruno was famous for. In this new age a more skillful bargaining style of leadership will be needed-one built on consensus rather than the sheer weight of partisanship. The ability to develop this style will determine whether Malcolm Smith will ultimately prove to be a successful leader.