ALBANY—We'll take your vote, Hiram, but don't look for a hug.
"We basically were trapped in our need to get to 31-31 at this point in time," State Senator Liz Krueger said of the decision to welcome (force?) State Senator Hiram Monserrate, an indicted Queens Democrat, back into the conference a week after he voted with Republicans to spark a leadership battle that has crippled the chamber. "I think we're making lemonade."
As negotiations continue over some sort of bipartisan operating structure, the warring parties don't even seem to believe their own words anymore when they suggest that any of it is about principle.
The leadership controls the spoils, commands the fund-raising dollars and distributes the bulk of the bacon. So are the Democrats taking the low road by taking Monserrate back, as City Councilman Charles Barron suggested? Remember, they were calling him a "thug" just a week ago. (By contrast, State Senator John Sampson, the newly elected conference leader, called him "my brother" after the de-defection.)
"A strategy decision to try to have 31-31 in order to try to move forward in the best interests of 19 million people, okay?" Krueger continued. "No, of course I'm not happy about it. I'm saying I believe the people of New York State said they wanted Democratic majority control. They voted for it, and I want to ensure that what the people asked for can be accomplished. But no, I'm not happy about it."
This was the general theme among members I spoke to: Hiram's presence is a means toward the end of progressive, legislative action. Even if it is a bitter pill.
"Clearly, we're working to ensure that we have the votes necessary to move the agenda for the people of the state of New York, and his participation in the conference is important to that," State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson told me. "I don't have to be happy about it. I don't come here to be happy or unhappy, I come here to get a job done. And whatever instruments and resources that are available for me to do that job better, that's what I do. I don't get into personalities of the individuals. I can't afford to. Do you think I like Skelos? Is that important? Exactly. Your face tells the story. I don't have to like him. We should govern together, and what we always have to do is find where is the middle ground, so that we can do the job."