FDR And RFK: State Senate Obstructionists? (Updated)
Sen. Jeff Klein’s posing in front of the campaign posters of Franklin Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson for today’s New York Times story was a clear, strong visual message: I’m a classic Democrat.
Klein in the story floated a leadership sharing arrangement with the Senate Republicans, a move he said would help the chamber continue to function.
But FDR and RFK are interesting choices to illustrate the story on a deeper level, given their roles in past fights in the state Senate that crippled any progress in the chamber.
This was all called to our attention this morning via Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group, who is an astute student of state political history.
In 1911, Roosevelt as a newly elected state senator blocked the Tammany Hall-appointee for the U.S. Senate, back when Legislatures had that power, which was ultimately a way of granting patronage posts.
Roosevelt, along with a group of fellow reformist lawmakers, kept the chamber deadlocked for 74 days and ultimately the Tammany choice was blocked.
Kennedy’s role is a bit more opaque, but interesting nevertheless. Elected in New York to the U.S. Senate in 1964, Kennedy took office at the time a newly empowered Democrat majority won control of the state Senate.
But in an amazingly similar chain of events to what happened 2008 and 2009, the chamber was fraught with Democratic in-fighting over leadership, paralyzing any activity. At one point, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller was unsure if he could even deliver his State of the State address, since the chamber had not picked a leader.
“Since they didn’t have a leader initially, they couldn’t do anything at all,” Mahoney said. “They had 75 separate leadership votes.”
The dominate theory at the time was that RFK was working behind the scenes in the state Democratic Party for his own choices to lead both the Assembly and Senate, part of a larger battle with New York City Mayor Robert Wagner. In the end, aides to Rockefeller had to mediate the dispute.
Of course, the third man behind Klein is LBJ, the “master of the Senate” — a shrewd politician who carefully used power and influence to get what he wanted.
And Roosevelt, now a secular saint for his guiding the country through a depression and war, is clearly cast as hero for standing up to the corrupt Tammany machine that dominated New York politics.
Update: And Mahoney sends along this great story from that era in which Kennedy tried to influence state politics.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on November 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm, and is filed under State Senate. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|