Monserrate Balks, Leaving Republicans With Half a Coup

hiram balks1 Monserrate Balks, Leaving Republicans With Half a CoupALBANY—The Republican-led coalition that led a coup in the State Senate Monday was unable to deliver on its promise to hold session today, as one of the renegade Democrats moved away from their fold.

State Senator Hiram Monserrate emerged from a closed-door meeting with Republican leader Dean Skelos and fellow insurgent, State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., to announce that the coalition is taking an "additional amount of time to ensure that the conversations that we have been having with several of the Democratic senators happen."

"We will be back here tomorrow in session and they will have the opportunity to work in conjunction in a bipartisan and reform manner to deal with the issues of the day: vacancy decontrol, and mayoral control, and so many of the issues that impact New Yorkers on a daily basis," Monserrate told a mega-scrum of reporters outside the Senate chamber doors.

Monserrate has been under considerable pressure from Democrats to drop out of the Republican coalition. According to a Democratic source familiar with the negotiations, he met with officials from the Working Families Party yesterday and several of the Democrats today.

"All the talks were encouraging. I assume that's why there was no session today, and something must have turned him back," the Democratic source said.

Senate Democrats are expected to meet this evening at 6. State Senator John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, is apparently waiting in the wings to replace Malcolm Smith as the Democratic leader. This would give Monserrate some "landing room" to re-join the Democrats, justifying his actions as having been a deliberate step toward achieving the ouster of Smith. ("I didn't vote on a party basis. I voted for reform," Monserrate said in the scrum.)

Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein has also formed a counter-coalition, the source said, but Sampson has the support of the Conference of Black Senators as well as several white colleagues.

During the scrum, unprompted, Espada Jr. claimed that his coalition "is as strong today as it was Monday."

When asked why there was no session today, he repeated his insistence there will be session tomorrow.

UPDATE: After Monserrate's proclamation, I spoke to State Senator Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican who led the floor efforts in the coup.

"What Hiram shared with us today was that, before we go into session, he was hoping there would be a couple more members of the coalition and he's going to talk to people tonight, but he did say that he will be there at 11 o'clock tomorrow morning. If he needs a little bit of time I don't think that's a big deal," Libous said. "You know, Hiram has been getting an awful lot of pressure from people. I'm told Sharpton was here, they have people at his house, I mean, that's unfortunate. I think he's being very level-headed and fair, and when he's saying, ‘You know, I need to try to find a few members of the coalition,' I think he's doing the right thing, and he'll be with us tomorrow morning."