Sharpton, Senate Dems To Oppose Skleinos ‘Over The Long Haul’
If you thought last weekend’s public outcry by black and Latino leaders against the new IDC-GOP coalition in the state Senate was a one-off, think again.
These critics, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, are not going to end their very vocal complaints any time soon. In fact, they plan to escalate their efforts over the coming weeks, and are even putting together a strategy for how to interact with – or, more pointedly, counteract – the coalition should it weather the storm long enough to start trying to run the chamber next month.
According to a source intimately involved with these planning sessions, “everything is on the table” at this point – including, as Democratic Leader John Sampson has hinted, the possibility of boycotting certain (note: not ALL) votes or even refusing to come to session altogether in order to force the IDC-GOP coalition to go it alone, even if that means sacrificing key pieces of legislation in the short term.
“If you’re going to steal the leadership, which this basically is, then you should basically be able to pass these agenda items,” said my source.
“There’s talk of like what happened in Wisconsin, where Democrats just didn’t come to the chamber (during a debate over stripping unionized public employees of their collective bargaining rights). If it’s a sham leadership, let them get the votes.”
“…There’s this belief that as long as (Senate Majority Leader Dean) Skelos and everyone else allows, say, the minimum wage vote to go forward than what’s the big deal? We can check that box and move on. The big deal is that the leadership was hijacked, so who knows what the minimum wage bill is going to be and what people had to give up in order to get it to the floor. You already start behind the eight ball with Skelos driving the discussion.”
We have seen the Democrats try this before, like when they all walked en masse out of the chamber last March to protest the redistricting bill. The measure ended up passing 36-0, with all four IDC members voting “yes.”
While they were gone, the Republicans quickly put a number of other bills onto the floor, including the inclusion of a sixth tier in the state pension fund (this was all part of the so-called “big ugly,” as you’ll recall), which was very unpopular with the public employees and the teachers. The four IDC members were the only “no” votes recorded on that bill.
But isn’t it a big risk to essentially sign the death warrants on issues that are popular with voters – even if the final versions are watered down and not anywhere close to what Democrats have been championing for years?
After all, voters tend to be far more interested in results than process – for proof, look no further than Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s consistently high approval ratings, even among voters who say they don’t agree with his entire agenda. They’re simply relieved he’s making Albany work again.
But my source insists I’m not giving voters enough credit, saying: “Voters are going to care when you say: Here’s what you could have had and should have had, and here’s what you got.”
“At some point, you can’t accept a small piece and not the whole,” the source continued. “At some point, it’s a strategy to say, ‘We’re going to make a stand and say what’s unacceptable and let the chips fall where they may.’ Maybe it’s better to have no minimum wage increase at all than to have one that just goes up eight cents.”
“The fallacy here is that people think this is a temporary frustration, and we’ll just allow it to proceed. That’s a huge mistake. This is not going away. People are digging in for the long haul.”
To that end, there’s a lot of planning underway.
Sharpton has a conference call tonight with some 150 clergy members across the state to enlist their assistance in this protest. He also plans to speak tomorrow with clergy in the districts of three of the five IDC members – Sens. Klein, David Carlucci, Diane Savino – to discuss the demonstrations that he pledged last weekend he would bring to their respective doorsteps.
The planning for a demonstration in the district of the newest IDC member – and the lone African-American face in the new coalition – Sen. Malcolm Smith, is already well underway, according to the source. Expect these actions to take place either over the coming weekend or early next week.
In the meantime, the divisions within the Senate Democratic conference remain an impediment.
There are still some members of the so-called “regular” (in other words, non-IDC) Democrats who believe getting Klein & Co. back to their side so they can re-take their proper place in the majority should be the ultimate goal, while others – albeit a smaller group – are content with cutting the IDC loose and going back to their old role as the vocal minority.
The developments of the past 24 hours, with Skelos and his fellow Republicans refusing to publicly commit to key elements of the progressive agenda Klein has been touting – and, perhaps more importantly, Cuomo has made a litmus test for gauging the effectiveness of the new coalition – like the minimum wage hike and campaign finance reform (whatever that means, actually), has given new hope to those who believe there’s still a narrow path back to the Democratic fold for the IDC.
Skelos’ reluctance led to a public tongue-lashing from Cuomo this morning, in which the governor pointedly said the Republicans are “wrong” to oppose campaign finance reform, a minimum wage hike and stop-and-frisk reform. Cuomo also warned he’ll “oppose” Skelos and end his hands-off approach with the Senate if the Republicans oppose his agenda, which is only likely to grow longer after his State of the State address on Jan. 9.
But so far, all this talk from the governor is just that – talk. And it remains to be seen when – and how much – he’ll get involved in the Senate mess. Until he does, it’s probably only a matter of time before Sharpton, who has so been very careful not to include the governor in his criticism, changes his tune.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on December 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm, and is filed under Al Sharpton, Albany, Andrew Cuomo, Democrats, Downstate NY, IDC, Republicans, State Senate, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|