Dean Skelos Reclaims Helm As Majority Leader
In a bold move this week, Republican Senator Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre reclaimed his title as Senate Majority Leader with help from two of 32 Democrats who voted across the aisle on a resolution to successfully oust Senator Malcolm Smith from the position.
But the 30-member Republican caucus has been highly critical of late, accusing the Senate majority of holding too many closed-door meetings during the state budget process and passing the controversial MTA bailout plan that includes a payroll tax that could affect every business, service or municipal employer in the counties the transit authority services.
Democratic Senators Pedro Espada of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens voted with Republicans on the resolution. The coup now enables Skelos to reclaim his seat as majority leader.
“This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic Majority. Nothing has changed. Senator Malcolm A. Smith remains the duly elected temporary president and Majority Leader. The real Senate Majority is anxious to get back to governing, and will take immediate steps to get us back to work,” Austin Shafran, Senator Smith’s press secretary, said in a statement.
For Assemblyman Tom Alfano, Skelos’ former chief of staff, the shift in power could only mean one thing: “Long Island wins! We’re back!”
Alfano added, “The impact of Dean becoming the Majority Leader means that we have a seat at the table. It means Belmont is back. It means school aid is back. It means health care is back. It means higher education and colleges are back. It means quality of life with programs like STAR and public transit is back! It means Nassau County is back!”
Senator Kemp Hannon, who serves the 6th Senatorial District, said the change in leadership returns a focus on the issue most important to Long Islanders – tax relief, tax relief and more tax relief. “For the past six months, the former New York City-based leadership relied too heavily on tax increases on suburban taxpayers to solve the state’s problems,” Senator Hannon said.
The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) is angered by the move, stating no amount of legal acrobatics by a desperate GOP is going to overturn the will of the people. “Majority Leader Smith and the Senate Democrats look forward to both the resolution of today’s theatrics and upcoming elections when New Yorkers continue to vote more Democrats into office. In the meantime, Dean Skelos and the Senate Republicans talking about reform is like the shark in Jaws talking about vegetarianism,” DSCC spokesman Shams Tarek said.
Smith was elected to a two-year term in January, pursuant to a resolution passed by a majority of senators.
“The purported coup was an unlawful violation of New York State law and the Senate rules and we do not accept it. The Senate Majority is fully prepared to go back to the people’s work, but will not enter the chamber to be governed by unlawful rules,” Shafran said, adding that they plan to file an action for a temporary injunction to enjoin the Republicans from illegitimately usurping authority from the people of New York.