By Tom Precious
ALBANY – Are the pieces lining up for today to be when the Senate Republicans make their deal with a breakaway group of Senate Democrats to share power in the chamber?
[UPDATE: Yes, they did line up. See story coming in few minutes on main Buffalo News homepage.]
It is THE question in Albany this morning.
With some Republicans privately worried that they will not win a still-being-counted Senate contest that would give Democrats at least a numerical advantage in the 63-member chamber, the flip this morning by Queens Sen. Malcolm Smith to the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference has lawmakers from both parties wondering if a coalition deal is now at hand.
Insiders, including senators, were privately wondering this morning whether it would be better to make an agreement now or wait until the courts decide how many paper ballots can be opened in a close and still-unresolved Senate race in the Mohawk and Hudson valleys.
[UPDATE: A Senate Republican lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said early this afternoon that some GOP legislators have been told to expect a deal to be announced by tomorrow for a power sharing arrangement between the IDC and Senate Republicans. But Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous, head of the Senate GOP fundraising committee, are keeping things quiet even with many members of the Republican conference, the lawmaker said.]
With now five members in its group, the IDC and its leader, Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, find themselves the most courted group in Albany. Klein is playing coy this morning. A call to his cell phone went unanswered. A minute later, the call to that number was returned but the line went dead when the reporter – me – answered the call saying “Buffalo News.”
A sign things are not going well for the Democrats: party insiders are quickly reminding reporters that it was Smith and Klein who led the Senate Democrats during their most chaotic period and who, against the pleas from some Democrats, helped bring senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate back into the Democratic family after they had bolted to help the GOP temporarily regain control of the Senate a few years ago. Brooklyn Sen. John Sampson then replaced Smith as the head of the Democrats; insiders say Smith has not been a major Democratic team player for at least the past year, and has skipped many private party conference meetings the group holds at the Capitol during session.
Meanwhile, the normally talkative Mike Gianaris, a Queens senator who heads the Senate Democratic campaign committee, declined to be interviewed this morning. Getting a deal today could also be an early holiday present for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who does not want to head into a new legislative session in January with chaos ruling the Senate. Cuomo has been tight with Senate Republicans, and was not active in helping Democrats try to regain the Senate’s control.