Senate blows opportunity

Let there be no mistake. Of all the winners and the losers in last year’s politics, there was no bigger group of losers than the gang that has been running the New York State Senate. They squandered the political opportunity of a lifetime.

After years of having the Republicans exercise a stranglehold on sensible and progressive policy making, the guys at the top blew it and the repercussions may be felt for years. Probably too late, they figured it out.

It was like the end of the movie when the crook realizes that he has been caught in a sting and is about to fall off a mountain. In a desperate attempt to save their squandered majority, the Gang at the Top rolled the dice and they are now offering the Republicans a chance to take committee chairmanships. They say they want a more bi-partisan approach to governing. Yeah, and I have a bridge to sell you.

Dean Skelos, the Republican Minority Leader and no shining light of reform himself, doesn’t want to give the Gang a break. He senses that the political ball is rolling in his direction, having seen the Republicans making huge gains in the last election. He thinks the Senate needs more reforms before this bi-partisans approach to committee chairmanships can happen. Skelos had a lot of opportunity for reform before they lost the majority and didn’t do a thing to make it happen.

But, in the long run, he might not squelch the opportunity for some of the best of the Republican crowd in the Senate to get their hands on some power. In fact, this whole situation represents a real challenge to Skelos’ leadership.

If even after Skelos says “no,” the favored Republicans eventually break from their conference and take the opportunity to chair committees in the Senate, it will represent a serious challenge to what has up to now been a real homogeneity in the Republican conference. Put in simpler words, up until now, the GOPers have stuck together like glue.

Imagine if you were one of the Republicans the Democrats are trying to recruit for chairmanships. You have to make a choice. If you accept the offer, you will be considered a traitor by those who were not offered such an opportunity.

There may be Republicans in your districts who think of you as a Benedict Arnold, a turncoat, an unprincipled scoundrel. Someone could run in a primary against you. Furthermore, in the event that some marginal Democratic Senators lose in the coming election and your party regains the majority, you might end up with an office deep in the bowels of the Legislature where the sun never shines.

This is a tough one and you know it. Since you probably don’t have the requisite guts, you will most likely turn it down.

Of course, there is precedent. Conservative Democrat Carl Kruger (sometimes known as “The bad Kruger” in counter-distinction to the “good Krueger,” the East Side’s Liz Krueger) was made Chairman of the Social Services Committee for his pro-Republican behavior. This presents a problem for the Republicans. It certainly appears hypocritical to now say there is something wrong with their members accepting chairmanships.

There is a basic problem here. Embracing this kind of bi-partisan approach may defeat the very principle of a “loyal opposition” or “shadow government” that will blow the whistle when the party in power has done something wrong.

No one exemplified how this can be done better James Tedisco, the former Republican Minority Leader in the Assembly who had a gift for using press releases and biting sarcasm to call attention to what the team in power was doing. He ran for Congress and is now a back bencher with little power. If members of the opposing team are co-opted, the entire concept of the loyal opposition is lost.

The betting is against most of the Republicans taking the chairmanship offers. We’ll know soon enough.

Chairmanships will be given out in early January but the election won’t happen until the following November.

Of course, should the select few Republicans who are being offered the political bribes accept, their votes will be needed if the Skelos Republican gang manages to eke out a majority. They can’t be too severely punished.

Originally Published in the Legislative Gazette, 1/2/10

Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized

One Comment on “Senate blows opportunity”

  1. littlebangtheory Says:

    2009 was certainly an unprecedented example of Bipartisan Stupidity for the New York legislature; I thanked my lucky stars that I was a resident of Massachusetts through the whole thing.

    It’s embarrassing to have to say that the mewling hypocrisy of the minority Republicans was at least matched by the Democratic For-Sale-Gang-of-Four and their kindergarten-ready aisle-mates.

    If anything good comes out of this, perhaps it will be that more New Yorkers will proudly call themselves “Independents” from this day forward, and that the toxic stranglehold of the two-party system will be broken.

    I’m not holding my breath.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: