House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi became the latest national figure to urge nine rogue Democrats in Albany to coalesce again with their party peers—one day after the California lawmaker appeared at a rally in Manhattan with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The swearing-in of new Harlem State Senator Brian Benjamin on Monday again gave registered Democrats a one-member numerical majority in the upper chamber of the State Legislature. However, Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder has caucused with the Republicans since his election in 2012, handing the advantage to the GOP—a slender majority bolstered by the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, which has held a power-sharing arrangement with the Republicans for nearly five years.
Pelosi’s statement, sent from her campaign, backed up a letter all 18 Democrats representing New York in the House signed last month calling on Felder and the IDC to break ties with the Republicans and rejoin the 23-member mainline Democratic conference.
“Given the high stakes, I join my New York Democratic congressional colleagues in urging all New York State Senate Democrats join the fight, and caucus and work together for New York’s working families,” Pelosi said in the statement, alluding to her visit yesterday.
A Democratic reunification would make Albany just the seventh solid-blue capital in the nation, as Democrats hold the governor’s mansion and the majority of seats in the Assembly. Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, in his capacity as deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also urged the turncoat coterie to restore their old party bonds last month.
Oddly, the Democrat who has said the least and prevaricated the most about Felder and the IDC is Cuomo, the titular head of the state party. The governor made his strongest statement in years about the arrangement in the State Senate last week, when he said it would be “optimal” if Democrats controlled the chamber.
Felder, who ran on both party lines last year, has maintained that caucusing with the Republicans has enabled him to better serve his constituents, most of whom are conservative religious Jews. The IDC, led by Bronx State Senator Jeffrey Klein, have asserted that the arrangement with the GOP has permitted the passage of numerous liberal measures—including gun control, paid family leave, a minimum wage hike and the creation of a legal services fund for undocumented immigrants.
IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove also reiterated the splinter faction’s call for the mainstream Democrats to “call the roll” an an array of liberal issues—given that several members of the conference lean conservative on abortion and same-sex marriage. Some in vulnerable districts may also not be fully committed to passing a socialized medicine program for New York or pushing through the DREAM Act, which would grant state tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.
“We are sure that if the congresswoman were familiar with New York State Senate politics she would join us in calling on the Democratic Minority Conference to stand up and pledge their support on issues such as women’s reproductive health, GENDA, single-payer health care, and the DREAM Act,” Giove said in a statement sent to the Observer.
Felder’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Updated to include Giove’s statement.