Monday, June 15, 2009

Fit To Be Tied

Morning has broken, and it now appears as if State Senator Hiram Monserrate has spun back into the Democratic orbit. As Juan Gonzales of the NY Daily News reports: "Sen. Hiram Monserrate has switched sides - again. "I'm coming home," the Queens Democrat told the Daily News in an exclusive interview on Sunday.Monserrate stunned the state's political establishment and paralyzed the Legislature a week ago when he rebelled against his own party and voted with fellow Democrat Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx to hand control of the Senate to the Republican minority."

We have been saying all along that Monserrate would most likely return to the Democratic column because he, unlike Senator Espada, is much more attached to a constellation of constituencies and interests that rely on the Democrats to promote their agenda: "Monserrate also must realize that by throwing state politics into a convulsion and switching sides twice in the same week, he is committing political suicide. But according to those close to him, the immense pressure he received in the past few days from his closest supporters in organized labor and among tenant advocates has taken a toll on him."

Which brings us to the potential for the dreaded 31-31 stalemate that have commented on earlier. As Gonzales also points out: "His decision creates an astonishing 31-31 deadlock in the Senate and further muddles the question of which party controls that body."

The NY Daily News further underscores the kind of mess that still potentially awaits: "Sen. Hiram Monserrate's stunning return to the Democratic fold creates almost as much chaos as when he left. Monserrate's flip back to the Democrats means the 32-to-30 split the Republicans thought they had gained during last week's coup would be reduced to 31 to 31. It takes at least 32 votes to get anything done - and 32 lawmakers must be in the chamber to even hold a session. "This state is facing a historic constitutional standoff," a top Senate aide said. "[At 31-31] we can't function."

And then there's Speaker Silver's threat to adjourn the Assembly, since the senate gridlock makes it nonproductive for his members to stick around: "Shelly's mad as hell, and he isn't gonna take it anymore. Stepping into the power vacuum left by a weak governor, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told The Post yesterday that he and the rest of the Assembly will get out of Dodge next week unless the feuding clowns in the Senate get their act together. "At this point, there doesn't seem to be any reason to stay," said Silver (D-Manhattan)."

So we enter the new week with overtones of Laurel and Hardy threatening to seep into the Albany scene-giving new meaning and resonance to that duo's most famous phrase: "What a fine mess you got us into."