Show Some Leadership, Senator

The M.T.A. bailout remains in limbo as the new majority leader, Malcolm Smith, searches for enough votes to get the aid package on the books. Thus far, those votes have proved maddeningly elusive, as several of Senator Smith’s fellow Democrats continue to withhold their support. Meanwhile, the city’s three Republican state senators continue to show little interest in bailing out Mr. Smith. If they decided to buck their party’s leadership by supporting the M.T.A. package, the bailout very likely would be on its way to Governor David Paterson’s desk.

Practical politics rule in Albany, so Republican opposition to a Democratic-authored plan shouldn’t come as a surprise. The high-minded might well wring their hands over partisan politics, but it would be foolish and naïve to expect anything else. Republicans lost control of the State Senate last year for the first time in more than a quarter-century. They aren’t happy about it, and would like to turn the tables on Democrats next year.

So it comes down to Mr. Smith—and, let’s not forget, Governor Paterson. Both men are Democrats. Their fellow Democrats in the Senate are holding up the bailout, and are doing so with impunity. That’s the most galling part of this fiasco—Mr. Smith and Mr. Paterson seem unable to use the powers at their disposal to persuade, gently or otherwise, fellow Democrats of the issue’s urgency.

The M.T.A. bailout ought to be priority No. 1 for both Mr. Paterson and Mr. Smith. The governor clearly hopes to regain his popularity with other initiatives, and while they are important, they simply do not have the urgency of the M.T.A. rescue plan.
City residents and suburban commuters are staring at huge fare hikes in the middle of a deep recession. What’s more, they will be waiting longer for service that will cost more. That’s a bad combination.

The time to act is now. The next sound we hear should be the screams of state senators whose arms are being twisted.