ALBANY—It is utter chaos here in the Capitol after the Republican takeover of the Senate. Assembly members and reporters and TV crews are swarming the hallways.
Moments ago, as their first act back in charge, the Republicans enacted new rules for the body which they say will open up the process, empower committee chairmen and enact the reforms promised by Democrats when they took over the chamber in January.
Once the new rules were adopted, after most of the Democrats had stormed out of the chamber, Republican floor leader Tom Libous declared all leadership posts and committee assignments void. The house was then adjourned until Wednesday, when the new leadership will announce further action.
Dean Skelos was asked what effect this would have on the outstanding business of the state. He responded that the session wouldn’t necessarily have to end in two weeks, opening up the possibility of an extension.
Skelos, the Long Island Republican who just became majority leader for the second time, told reporters about what he promised would be a more open Senate with a new, fairer set of rules: “We enacted them immediately in a legal, constitutional way to make sure that they become the rules of the Senate.”
“I don’t think it’s a matter of one individual in control," he also said. "It’s a matter of, with these rules changes, we’ve opened up the process to the members.”
Tom Golisano, the billionaire and former Independence Party candidate for governor, met immediately after the coup in the fourth floor office of Espada with Espada and Skelos. He had been sitting in the Senate gallery as the coup was taking place on the floor, and one of his surrogates bragged about him being behind the whole thing, according to Karen Scharff of Citizen Action.
Golisano told reporters afterward that Steve Pigeon, his chief operative and a former Democratic chair of Erie County, had been working on the coup for a long time.
The Senate Democrats, who seemed genuinely stunned by the development, just released the following statement from Austin Shafran, a spokesman from "Senate Majority Leader" Malcolm Smith:
“This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic Majority. Nothing has changed, Senator Malcolm A. Smith remains the duly elected Temporary President and Majority Leader. The real Senate Majority is anxious to get back to governing, and will take immediate steps to get us back to work.”