The New York State Senate is now back in the hands of the Republicans—thanks to the votes of two dissident Democrats. New York State Democrats have locked the gates that leads to the New York State Senate chamber, and ousted Democratic leader Malcolm Smith of Queens has said he will not call back members until order is restored. Talking points to the media attacking both Democrats may have been released. CBS News is already reminding viewers about Mr. Espada’s residency issues and that Mr. Monserrate was recently indicted for beating his girlfriend.
The new Senate majority leader is Republican Dean Skelos of Centreville, New York. Mark Hansen, a spokesman for the Senate’s GOP conference, said:
“An historic change in leadership is taking place at this moment and a new bipartisan, coalition is being established that is bringing real reform to the Senate RIGHT NOW.”
This event could very well just be the beginning of things to come for Democrats. The unemployment rate is at 9.4 percent, and Mr. Obama warned the “recession is going to take a considerable amount of time for us to pull out of,” but the American people may not have the patience, and the Republican party seems to be in the mood for a good rumble in 2010.
The two dissident Democrats are Senator Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx, who is now temporary Senate president, and Senator Hiram Monserrate of Queens. The Republicans now have a 32-30 edge in the chamber. However, Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate will not conference with Republicans and will remain Democrats.
Mr. Espada explained to reporters:
“While I would like to be jubilant, it’s difficult to be jubliant,” Espada insisted. “This is a sobering moment born out of the need to have a coalition government - a need to really give the citizens of New York that we all work for, that we all service that we all care for, the kind of coalition government that will be focused on reform, that will be focused on delivering to them government they can be proud of.
“At the end of the day, what you witnessed today may be characterized as a power grab, as a coup. Please understand, this is a new beginning in New York State, a new beginning of bipartisan government. A new beginning of real reform.”
“We experienced five months of failure,” Espada concluded. “A budget process that was dealt out in secrecy. Punishment, punishment - punishing members to vote a certain way. The 30 Republicans asked many times: Are there some brave citizens and senators on the other side of the aisle? And we did respond today. Not just today but through Senate rules and reform what we do, how we do it, and how we serve the citizens of this great state.”
According to various reports, Republican Senator Tom Libous called for a roll call vote on Monday which led to all 30 Republicans standing with their hands raised along with Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate. This signaled a vote for a change in leadership. During the vote Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate voted with Republicans ousting Democrat Malcolm Smith as Senate Majority Leader. This move enabled the GOP to take back the State Senate after losing it five months ago.
Democrats cut off the web feed and lights of the chamber when the voting was happening and left Republicans with their two Democrat allies in the dark, when GOP members took control of the chamber.
Democrats are looking to fight what they are calling, “an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic majority.” New York Republicans, however, are confident that everything was done by the rule book.