Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins today criticized the partnership between Senate Republicans and the four-member Independent Democratic Conference, saying the coalition has thwarted bills on campaign-finance reform, ethics and abortion rights.
“Obviously New Yorkers are looking to see some accountability and some responsiveness in regards to ethics reform from the Legislature,” Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said on WNYC-AM in Manhattan. “You would think that we would be able to get something to the floor.”
Senate Democrats won the majority in 2012, but were blocked from power when the IDC joined up with 30 Republicans to take control. Democrats have blasted the power-sharing agreement, saying it has blocked the progressive agenda they seek.
Last June, Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, attempted to force a vote on the abortion rights piece of the 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda by introducing a “hostile amendment” — a procedural maneuver that allows a bill to be changed as its being debated on the floor.
But Senate Republicans and Bronx Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx — a pro-life minister — voted to keep the amendment from being put to a vote, ruling it non-germane.
“It’s amazing to me that apparently there’s not one Republican who is willing to vote for reproductive health in the New York state Senate,” Stewart-Cousins said. “Because they would not put them in a position to actually vote for reproductive health, updating the laws, they broke up the package.”
Klein has defended the IDC, saying measures like a minimum-wage increase and the gun-control law wouldn’t have been passed last year without bi-partisan support. He has said that Democrats don’t even have the votes to pass the bill that would strengthen abortion rights — two Democrats, Diaz and Sen. Timothy Kennedy of Buffalo — oppose it.
Updated: Kennedy has indicated that he is pro-life, but he voted for the hostile amendment.
Democrats have hinted that they may run primaries in November against the IDC — which includes Sens. Diane Savino of Staten Island; David Valesky of the Syracuse area and David Carlucci of Rockland County.
But Stewart-Cousins wouldn’t discuss that possibility in the interview.
“I’m not focused on re-election now,” she said.
Updated 2x: IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove fired back in this statement.
“This year, the Independent Democratic Conference has a plan that will guarantee working mom’s paid maternity leave, make daycare more affordable, and give working families and seniors the type of tax breaks they deserve. New York’s working families need our support. The only question is, will Senator Stewart-Cousins finally rally behind the IDC’s plan for the middle class?
“There is no bigger champion in Albany of Mayor de Blasio’s universal pre-k plan than Senator Klein. It’s sad to see Senator Stewart-Cousins try to undermine that support and weaken it’s chances of passing before the session even begins. “