Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Wheeling and Dealing

According to the NY Daily News, senate Democrats may be closing in on a leadership deal: "Senate Democrats appeared on the verge of a last-minute deal Monday night that could avoid chaos when lawmakers go back in session Tuesday. Sources said Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith and three dissident Dems were close to an agreement that would give Smith the 32 votes he needs to become majority leader."

Whether this is the case, however, depends upon the ability of Senator Smith to bring it all home with the conference he leads: "Smith's members were expected to be asked to sign off on the deal during a closed-door Democratic conference." Remember that the original deal apparently was too much for Smith's colleagues to swallow.

Will whatever is currently on the table be different enough to allow for Smith to ascend with the support of 32 senators? This is the question that remains unanswered this morning-even while unsubstantiated rumors surrounding the new parameters emerge from behind the scenes: "One source said that Sen. Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat and a leader of the rebel Democrats, would become chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, and Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Bronx Democrat and another so-called Gang of Three member, would become chairman of the Aging Committee. Bronx Democrat Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., who under a previous deal that fell apart was to become majority leader, would receive an "influential policy position," sources said. "Espada will come out the most senior and influential Hispanic in state government," one source said of the Bronx Democrat."

Other sources deny that the three amigos will have the same kind of influence that they appeared to have negotiated previously: "Unlike the previously aborted deal, the positions of president pro tempore and majority leader will not be decoupled. Smith (D-Queens) will hold both titles. Also, Kruger's Finance Committee will not get a separately funded staff, a source said. Another source said the Gang of Three will get the titles they seek, but will have no power over the legislative agenda."

So we can see that there is still a great deal of uncertainty here, with little time left before the opening of tomorrow's session: "Absent a leadership deal, the state Senate could have trouble opening for business. Because the state has no lieutenant governor - who traditionally presides over the Senate - Republicans and Democrats were squabbling yesterday over who should wield the gavel."

Something should get done, but past experience gives us pause-and Democrats are rather expert at creating chaos out of order. Tonight's Democratic conference will be all telling on this two month controversy.