Less than a week after Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith struck a deal with three renegade Democratic senators that would give him the support necessary to become the leader in the Senate, the deal is off, and the uncertainty over what political party will control the Senate come January is now greater than ever.
The deal, which Smith reportedly cut with fellow Democrats Rub/n D’az Sr., Pedro Espada Jr. and Carl Kruger - all of whom were withholding backing Smith for Senate Majority Leader - would have given each of the three significant leadership positions in the Senate in exchange for their support of Smith.
However, on Tuesday night, December 9, the deal, which would have given the Democrats the majority by a 32-30 margin when the senators caucus in January, began to unravel over specifics.
At a press conference in Albany the following morning, Smith told reporters that “we are suspending negotiations, effective immediately, because to do so otherwise would reduce our moral standing and the long-term Senate Democratic commitment to reform and to change.”
Smith even talked about the Democrats remaining in the minority rather than submitting to the demands of the three.
“New York State cannot afford the type of self-serving politics being proposed, and I will not be the leader to sacrifice what is right for New York for a quick political solution,” Smith said.
Some of the specifics of the now failed deal included Espada Jr. taking on the position of majority leader with Smith above him as President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Former Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his predecessor Joseph Bruno both held the titles of Senate Majority Leader concurrently with the President Pro Tempore of the Senate post. However, some reports said that Espada Jr. was angered about what responsibilities he would have in the position.
In addition, Smith would have appointed Kruger chair of the powerful Finance Committee and Diaz chair of the Committee on Aging.
Meanwhile, the deal reportedly angered some longtime Democratic Senators who thought Smith gave up too much to the three holdouts in exchange for their support. Smith said on Wednesday that he could resume talks with the three holdouts - on Smith’s terms - and he would be open to speaking with any other senators, including Republicans.
The Senators will not caucus until the beginning of 2009 when the new Senators are sworn into office. At that point, all of the sitting Senators will cast their vote for who should be the Majority Leader.
Senate majority deal falls apart