Last Thursday Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand condemned the group of rogue Democrats in the New York Senate who align themselves with Senate Republicans.
“Senator Gillibrand believes it’s vital to have Democratic control of the State Senate and it should be led by the Democratic Majority that wants to get things done for New Yorkers, not a breakaway faction. The status quo is not just unacceptable, it’s wrong,” Gillibrand’s senior advisor Glen Caplin said in a statement emailed to The Alt.
New York’s House Delegation demanded the Independent Democratic Conference join with Democrats earlier this month. Meanwhile, the IDC has been reeling from a scandal that followed the revelation that some of its members were awarded stipends called “lulus” for chairing committees they weren’t actually heading. The payments are currently being investigated by the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and federal prosecutors at the office of the Eastern District of New York.
The IDC has been routinely criticized by Democrats for siding with the IDC for perks and power while marginalizing the voice of voters who chose Democratic representatives to lead them. Democrats technically enjoy a majority in the Senate with 32 seats, but the IDC and Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder work with Senate Republicans.
On Monday The Buffalo News ran an interview with Klein where he vowed to remain with Senate Republicans and demanded Stewart-Cousins and Sen. Michael Gianaris resign from their leadership positions.
“It’s failed leadership on the part of Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Mike Gianaris that hides behind this so-called progressive agenda. They have no intention of marshaling votes to get things done,’’ Klein told The Buffalo News, referring to the IDC’s “Call the Roll” campaign that was designed to show that Democrats don’t have all the votes they need to pass a host of progressive measures like the Gender Non-Discrimination Act and the DREAM Act.
Klein, though, has not held Republicans to the same standard–most of its members opposed GENDA and the DREAM Act. In fact, many of them have run against the DREAM Act. Republicans control which bills come to the floor to a vote, and while some IDC members are sponsors on GENDA and DREAM, those issues are unlikely to come to a vote due to their arrangement with Republicans.
Many Democrats see Klein’s attack on Stewart-Cousins as also a swipe at Gillibrand. Gillibrand and her “Off the Sidelines Campaign” recently recognized Democratic Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins with an award for her “commitment to equality and progressive ideas.” Stewart-Cousins is the first woman to ever head a legislative conference in New York State.
Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, issued a statement saying: “Senator Klein is obviously lashing out due to the tremendous amount of pressure from so many Democratic leaders including the DNC leadership, the entire New York Democratic Congressional Delegation, (U.S.) Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, numerous Democratic County Leaders, and Democratic activists across the state. The last person we would take advice from on this issue is someone who has explicitly stated his goal is to keep the Republicans in charge of the Senate,” said Mike Murphy, the spokesman for the Senate Democrats. “If Senator Klein wants have a say on who should lead the Democratic Conference we call on him to rejoin the Democratic Conference and ‘call the roll,’” Murphy added.
Klein’s interview appears to be the start of a second wave of pushback to advocacy by the Working Families Party and other left-leaning groups to force the IDC to rejoin Democrats. The IDC launched a digital campaign on Monday with videos featuring Klein touting the conference’s legislative accomplishments–they were instrumental in enacting paid family leave legislation and an increase in the minimum wage. Senate Democrats say those policies were tempered to please Senate Republicans and would not have been had the IDC been aligned with them.