Editorial

TMI: Why Cuomo’s disinterest in a Democratic-controlled Senate is so troubling

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TMI: Why Cuomo’s disinterest in a Democratic-controlled Senate is so troubling

 Last week Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a man who appears determined to position himself in the national spotlight as a progressive champion and logical Democratic presidential contender in 2020, was asked whether New York would be better off with Democrats controlling both houses of the legislature. The Senate is currently controlled by Republicans, thanks to the help of a group of rogue Democrats called the Independent Democratic Conference and Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder.

“We’ve had a unified Democratic government in Albany. It’s not a hypothetical. We’ve had it. It wasn’t extraordinarily successful. So I work with the Assembly and Senate that I’ve been given and I do the best I can,” Cuomo was quoted as saying by The NY Daily News.

The period of time Cuomo is talking about began in 2009 when Democrats won control of the Senate after decades in the minority, with the help of Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Democratic activists. Spitzer, however, resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal, leaving David Paterson to govern. Paterson’s administration was chaotic and unorganized, and Senate Democrats feuded over positions and appointments. Some of those involved in the power struggle are now Cuomo allies; among those are IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein and political fixer Steve Pigeon.

Pigeon helped Republicans seize on the strife in the Democratic Conference and arranged a deal between then Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos–another man whom Cuomo has worked closely with–and Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate. Both Democrats agreed to caucus with Republicans in exchange for power. Espada was voted in as President of the Senate. With no Lieutenant Governor, Espada was technically next in line for the governorship, and Paterson’s administration seemed at times to be teetering. Espada would later be convicted on multiple federal corruption counts.

Democrats challenged the coup in court and kept the Senate Chambers locked. Eventually the Democrats cut a deal to lure back the renegades, but by then weeks had been wasted and the Democrats’ time in power was labeled a joke. Republicans soon won back control and Klein departed the Democratic fold to work with the Republicans under the banner of the IDC.

It was amid all this chaos that Cuomo made it clear that he would be running for Governor to clean up Albany dysfunction and corruption–a promise he clearly has failed to make good on. He seized on that moment, a moment created by Republicans just as much as Democrats, to push Paterson out of the Governor’s race.

Cuomo could have invested in getting smart, progressive Democrats elected, but he didn’t. He backed Republicans and endorsed them. He did donate to some Senate Democrats and quietly endorsed others at the last minute, but the State Democratic Party he controls has not seriously invested in supporting Democrats.

Cuomo has continually allowed Republicans to thwart his own agenda items–the Women’s Equality Act, Raise the Age, and Minimum Wage were all delayed and then downgraded from Cuomo’s original proposals by Senate Republicans. The DREAM Act, grand jury reform, closing the LLC loophole that allows corporations unlimited donations, public financing of elections and other major reform initiatives have been totally blocked by them.

If Cuomo doesn’t want a Democratic Senate, then we have to question whether he is actually committed to the proposals he touts. If Cuomo doesn’t want a Democratic Senate, then the reality is he isn’t as progressive as he claims to be—not because he isn’t blindly supporting Democrats but because he knows the progressive policies he claims to support will never actually become law.

 In a series of tweets on May 4,] Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) put it another way:

 

       10) Really? Because of Senate GOP rent-regulated tenants in NYC are an endangered species! https://t.co/ktyh8u5Up6

— Senator Brad Hoylman (@bradhoylman) May 4, 2017

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