Senate Deals With Gridlock As Session Nears End


The New York state Senate is beset by gridlock as Republicans hold on to power by the thinnest of margins.

With one member away on military duty, Republicans are relying on the support of Democrat Simcha Felder to stay in control. But the razor-thin margin, however, means that Democrats can effectively shut down the Senate whenever Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul chooses to use her constitutional authority to chair the Senate — and provide tie-breaking votes.

Typically that’s only a formal role for the lieutenant governor, but repeatedly in the past few weeks Hochul’s presence has allowed Democrats to make life difficult for the Republicans, bringing work in the Senate to a near halt. Twice Republicans have ended the day’s work to prevent Hochul from leading the Senate. Democrats, meanwhile, used their numbers to block a non-controversial Republican bill requiring private schools to address sports concussions.

Both sides blamed the other.

“They want to have politics rule the day. It’s embarrassing. It’s disgusting,” said Senate’s leader John Flanagan. Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, meanwhile, called it “an assault on our democracy.”

Heading into the session’s final weeks, the two sides have worked out an uneasy detente. It remains to be seen whether it will last during the usual flurry of end-of-session deals.

Some are rooting for the stalemate.

“On the whole, New Yorkers can breathe a sigh of relief if the state Senate’s gridlock forces an early end to the 2018 regular session of the Legislature,” said Ken Girardin of the Empire Center, a conservative think tank.

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