Senate Republicans are claiming victory in a too close to call special election in Brooklyn. A win by the GOP candidate could spell another blow to minority party Democrats in the Senate. The beleaguered minority party are now charging that the Senate GOP has been using house rules to further stifle them.
A win by Brooklyn Republican Senate candidate David Storobin would increase the Republicans’ Majority in the Senate from the one vote edge of 32 seats to 33 seats. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says that’s an achievement in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by five to one.
“Our Republican message in Albany about ending the dysfunction, cutting taxes, cutting spending, and focused on private sector job creation is really resonating throughout the state,” Skelos said.
If the republican candidate’s lead holds it spells yet another blow to Senate Democrats, who briefly held the majority from 2008 until 2010.
Last week, the legislature approved new district lines that favor Republicans in the Senate, a deal that made Democrats so angry they walked out of the Senate and boycotted the vote on the new lines and several other items. Before they left, Senator Michael Gianaris, a long time advocate of independent, non partisan redistricting, lost his temper on the Senate floor.
“As far as I’m concerned…you can shove it,” Gianaris said.”
Since then, Democrats say the Republicans have stifled their attempts to attach hostile amendments to bills. Senator Bill Perkins a Democrat from Harlem, tried to attach an amendment for the Dream Act, to give college aid to children of undocumented immigrants, to a bill to award grants to public libraries. He was shut down by Republicans, who declared that the amendment was “not germane”.
“There has been a disturbing pattern on the part of the majority of stifling debate,” Perkins said on the floor.
A voice vote ended the debate, and Senator Perkin’s amendment.
The following day, an amendment to enact security micro stamps on guns by Senator Jose Peralta of Queens, was also ruled not germane, and defeated, with little debate.
Senator Dan Squadron, a Democrat who represents lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, says Republicans also pulled over 300 bills sponsored by Democrats from committees and sealed them up in the Rules committee, which is under the control of the Senate Majority Leader.
“It’s classic old Albany, which is don’t talk about difficult issues, don’t talk about issues that folks out there across the state want to talk about,” said Squadron, who accused the GOP of keeping ”special interests happy, and “hoping nobody notices”.
Senate Leader Skelos says Republicans’ actions to limit debate are simply an attempt to maintain order in the Senate. And he says Democrats are “being treated fairly”.
“They are getting more bills passed on the Senate floor that has ever happened before to a minority party,” said Skelos, who points out that four Democrats in the Senate chair committees.
There are four Senate Democrats who hold committee chairs, but they are members of splinter faction called the Independent Democratic Conference, and have allied themselves more often with the Republicans that the rest of the Senate Democrats.
Skelos says the hostile amendments are just an attempt by the rest of the Senate Democrats to cause disruptions.
“They’re trying to stop the orderly process,” said Skelos. “And trying to bring it back to their dysfunctional way of governing.”
Democrats did have a rocky record during the brief two years that they held the chamber, including a coup attempt by some Democrats, along with the republicans, that led to a month long stand off, and helped earn New York’s legislature the title from NYU’s Brennan Center of the most dysfunctional state government in the nation .
And Senate Leader Skelos says Democrats were behaving childishly when they walked out of the redistricting vote, and he predicts those actions will come back to haunt the Senate Democrats.
“That was totally irresponsible and derelict of their duties,” Skelos said.
Even if the Brooklyn seat does go the Republicans, the GOP still holds a precarious majority in the Senate, and there’s no telling for certain what will happen in November. Senator Squadron speculates that maybe the Senate Democrats have the Republicans just a little bit worried.
“They are certainly afraid of something,” Squadron said.