A group of four Democratic state senators in New York plan to form a coalition to give control of the state Senate to Republicans, just weeks after Democrats appeared to have won control of the chamber.
State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) told The New York Times that the Independent Democratic Conference he leads is planning to negotiate a power sharing agreement with Senate Republicans. The move comes after election results showed Democrats with 32 seats in the 63-member Senate, with one race still outstanding.
Sen.-elect Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) announced earlier this month that he would caucus with Republicans senators, giving the GOP a 31-member conference.
Klein told the Times that the IDC, which was formed in 2011 and has maintained close ties with Senate Republicans, would remain its own entity, and the four Democratic senators would not be joining the GOP conference like Felder.
The Times reports:
“We can’t go back to the days of dysfunction,” Mr. Klein said. “We can’t go back to the days of relying on every single Democrat to get things done, ignoring the other side completely, jamming through a legislative agenda which doesn’t have bipartisan support.”
Mr. Klein formed his Independent Democratic Conference in January 2011 with three others: David Carlucci of Rockland County, who at 31 is the youngest member of the Senate; Diane J. Savino, a former labor activist who represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn; and David J. Valesky of the Syracuse area.
Mr. Klein outlined a system in which the leaders of the Republican caucus and the Independent Democratic Conference would work together to run the Senate, with joint control over committee agendas, the bills that are taken up on the floor and state budget negotiations.
In a still undecided Senate race outside of Albany, Republican Assemblyman George Amedore leads Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk by 110 votes with 1,000 votes left to count. An Amedore win would give Republicans control without the IDC, while a Tkaczyk win would give Democrats control if Klein and his allies change their minds.
Republicans have controlled the New York Senate continuously since the 1960s with the exception of Democratic control in 2009 and 2010. Democratic control was marked by the 2009 Senate coup which briefly gave control back to Republicans who joined with several renegade Democrats.
The apparent Democratic victory on Election Day was touted nationally as part of Democratic state legislative gains. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has come under fire from progressive activists in recent days over the fate of the Senate, with progressives saying that Cuomo did not do enough to elect Democrats. Cuomo endorsed several GOP senators who backed the same sex marriage bill in the state.
Klein and his allies formed the IDC after Republicans grabbed control in the 2010 election, citing Democratic Senate "mismanagement" and a desire for both parties to work together. The IDC members all received committee chairmanships from the Senate Republicans at the time. Klein did not indicate if he and the other IDC would receive leadership positions in the proposed coalition.