Sen. Jeff Klein said today that the four-member Independent Democratic Conference wouldn’t vote for a Democrat or Republican to be Senate majority leader and instead wants to be a permanent third conference in the chamber.
In an interview this afternoon with Gannett’s Albany Bureau, Klein, D-Bronx, disputed that the IDC would back Senate Republicans to keep the majority. He said the IDC wants the Senate rules changed so it has “equal authority over everything.”
Klein said that “the rules of the Senate is what governs what we do every day. And we can do something, I think, very bold, very creative, something that I think is going to work very well in the New York state Senate by creating a third conference, the Independent Democratic Conference, as a permanent conference in the rules.”
The New York Times, in an interview with Klein yesterday, suggested that Klein would work with Senate Republicans to create a coalition government. But Klein said the IDC isn’t looking to boost either side.
“That’s absolutely not true,” Klein said. “A coalition government is not benefiting one side or the other. It’s Democrats and Republicans working together to agree on a policy agenda. It’s equal authority over everything.”
How a three-conference Senate of 63 members would work is unclear. As it stands, Republicans hold 31 seats, Democrats hold 26 seats, the IDC has four, and there are two undecided seats.
Klein said a coalition government—with the IDC as an equal power—would create the type of bi-partisanship in the Senate that would benefit the state. He said issues like a Reproductive Health Act, campaign-finance reform and increasing the minimum wage won’t happen without all the sides working together.
“That puts a situation in place where we can now have a Democratic leader, an Independence Democratic Conference leader and a Republican leader – and that’s how you have a coalition government, and that’s where no one party has an advantage,” Klein said. “It really forces Democrat and Republicans to really be policy driven.”
The IDC’s bargaining power appears to be the strongest if Democrats were to win the two undecided seats. Republican George Amedore holds a narrow 110-vote lead, and Democrat Terry Gipson has a 1,700-vote lead.
If Democrats win both seats, they would have 32 votes—but only if they have the backing of the IDC. If Republicans win the Amedore race, they would have 32 votes independent of the IDC.