Senate President Steve Sweeney has slashed all GOP-introduced bills from next Monday’s committee agendas in retaliation for what he and others in the upper chamber say was a cheap political maneuver by Sen. Tom Kean Jr.
According to three sources familiar with Sweeney’s actions, the Senate president’s move is payback for Kean’s blocking of a procedural maneuver on the Senate floor Monday that would have allowed a vote on Sweeney’s bill strengthening background checks for gun purchasers.
Instead, the bill won’t be voted on until the Senate’s next voting session on May 30.
According to all three sources, Sweeney and other Senators, including some Republicans, believe the GOP’s minority leader was injecting politics into what is normally a collegial environment.
But Jeremy Rosen, a spokesman for Kean, says the Senate Minority leader was never approached by Sweeney about the need for the emergency vote and disputes the assertion that he blocked it. But one source said Kean told Democratic Senate staffers on the floor that he would not allow the emergency vote.
According to the source, Sweeney will continue to leave GOP-sponsored bills off the agenda for the foreseeable future.
“This is unprecedented,” the source said. “This could be the first time ever that the agendas will go forward with no Republican bills.”
The bad blood between Kean and Sweeney goes back to a memo Kean wrote earlier this year talking up the GOP’s chances in the upcoming legislative elections. In the memo, Kean listed Sweeney’s District 3 as a winnable district for Republicans.
“With the successful re-election of our 16 Senate Republicans, these five seats alone (1, 2, 3, 14 and 38) are enough to build a new majority,” wrote Kean. “These are districts that, even in non-gubernatorial years, should remain realistic targets for Republicans with enough campaign resources.”
The Senate minority leader doubled down on the sentiment in comments made when he recruited Niki Trunk, a former employee of the state comptroller’s office, to challenge Sweeney.
Kean also has dumped money into Trunk’s campaign, further alienating the Senate President.
Sweeney has responded in the past by issuing a series of releases questioning Kean’s ties to subcontractors of AshBritt, the controversial Florida firm contracted by the state to remove debris left by Super Storm Sandy.
One GOP source said even Republicans have grown tired of the feud.