Word came over the weekend that Sen.-elect Hiram Monserrate had parted with the so-called “Gang of 4” Democrats and pledged to support Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, as majority leader and help Democrats keep their majority. But Sen. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx just said in a statement that there was a “handshake commitment” between the four Democrats that they would not take any action until after they meet tomorrow, and they would make any decision public after that meeting.
Diaz also said he could not back any leader who would bring a vote on gay marriage to the floor for a vote. The Democrat-controlled Assembly passed a gay-marriage bill two years ago, but Republicans have not let it come up for a vote in the Senate.
Juanita Scarlett, a spokeswoman for Smith, said the Senate’s priority is the economy. “Senator Smith has said he will govern by the consensus of his conference,” she said, adding that he wants to change Senate rules to allow more legislation to be debated on the floor, even bills he doesn’t support.
Democrats won enough seats (32) last week to take control of the Senate for the first time in more than 40 years, but members of the “Gang of 4”- turned -“Gang of 3” have been holding back support for Smith and left open the possibility that they could be won over by Republicans wanting to keep the majority. Republicans won 30 seats. The other two members of the breakaway group are Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn and Sen.-elect Pedro Espada of the Bronx.
This is part of Diaz’ statement:
“If Senator-elect Hiram Monserrate has made a decision in Puerto Rico to endorse Senator Malcolm Smith, that is his decision. I have not made a decision yet and hope the others have not either. I have not comitted myself to anybody, and my position as an ordained minister and a pastor will not allow e to support any would-be leader that will bring gay marriage to the Senate floor.
“This is nothing new. Mr. Smith and all my colleagues have known my position for more than a year. That does not make me a Republican. Where is it written that in order to be a Democrat you have to suport gay marriage? And where is it written that if you do not support gay marriage you are not a good Democrat? I have always been a Democrat. I remain a Democrat, and I will continue to be a Democrat. A Democrat who rejects gay marriage and abortion based upon my beliefs.”