Senate Democrats sparred with Republicans and criticized a four-person Independent Democratic Conference during this afternoon’s session over seating arrangements in the chamber, although the seating issue was a flashpoint for some other issues Democrats, who are in the minority, have with how the GOP is running the Senate and how resources are being shared.
Seating was rearranged on the Democratic side of the aisle to allow members of the Independent Democratic Conference to sit together. That didn’t sit well with Sen. Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn, who accused the Republicans of lacking the decorum Democrats observed when they were in the majority in 2009 and 2010. He said the seating changes meant Democrats had to search today for where their chairs had been moved. (Each one has an engraved plate on the back with the name of the senator.) It was “some type of political musical chairs,” Adams said.
Adams said the Independent Democratic Conference shouldn’t be recognized as a separate conference and said he is “ashamed” of the four senators. “There isn’t three conferences in the Senate. Let’s stop this madness,” he said. The majority and the minority are the only two conferences in the Senate, he said.
Adams said senior Democratic members are not being treated with respect and freshmen senators “who are picking rooms before them, who are knowing more about what’s going to happen to them in their lives.” He quoted from a letter sent by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, that described the Senate’s anti-discrimination policy. Adams then asked if Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, D-Brooklyn, was denied her room because she is African American, and if Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, D-Mamaroneck, Westchester County, was denied her room because she is a woman.
Sen. Tom Libous, R-Binghamton, said he was offended by those remarks. He has been in charge of the transition from Democratic control to GOP control following the November elections and has worked with Democratic Sen. Neil Breslin of the Albany area on it.
“At no point in time is there any discrimination that has taken place with this. And sir I consider that an insult and not the conduct and behavior that any one of us should have toward each other,” said a visibly angry Libous.
“We have organized the office moves the best way we know how, very similar to what was done two years ago,” he said. “And quite frankly … we’ve given you more space than you gave us.”
(Skelos was not in the chamber for today’s session.)