New York state Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who has long caucused with Republicans, joined the Senate Democratic caucus Monday for the first time.
Felder has caucused with Republicans for years while the GOP held the majority in the Senate. He has always been a registered Democrat, but in 2016 ran on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines.
Last year, with Felder the swing vote in the Senate, and a Democratic takeover all but assured following November 2018 elections, Felder nevertheless continued to caucus with Republicans, and succeeded in preventing passage of a budget until what became known as the Felder Amendment, which assured yeshivos of a measure of independence in their secular studies programs, was included.
When Democrats swept to power in November, winning 39 seats – seven more than needed for a majority – besides Felder’s, party leadership did not allow him to return to its caucus, and he was given no committee assignments or leadership posts.
During the 2019 legislative session, Felder voted for a raft of Democratic bills, and on Monday he reached a deal with party leadership to return to its caucus. It was not announced immediately whether he will be given any leadership or committee posts.
“At the start of this past session, I made clear that we wanted to begin with the 39 Senators who were committed to being members of our conference, but that we were open to growing if other Senators displayed a desire to advance our Democratic agenda,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “This year, Senator Felder joined our Senate Democratic majority in support of many crucial issues, including the strongest tenant protections in history, the new Green Light law, voting reforms and legislation to prevent gun violence. Accordingly, we will move forward with 40 diverse and united members, joined by a shared commitment to continue delivering progressive results for our state.”
Felder spokeswoman Sheri Toiv told Hamodia that the senator’s sole focus as an elected official has always been to do that which is in the best interests of his constituents.
“The Senator has always been consistent in his message: He is faithful to the people he represents,” said Toiv. “He can best represent them with a seat at the table, and he looks forward to working with his Democratic colleagues for the good of all New Yorkers.”