ALBANY—Here’s the problem. Any workable resolution to the leadership fight in the State Senate—one that isn’t immediately challenged in court by one side or the other, or both—will have to be brought about by the senators. And the senators, it should be said, don’t look capable of much at all.
"Ultimately it has to be the senators," said Blair Horner, the legislative director for N.Y.P.I.R.G. and a longtime Capitol observer. "Because anything at all can end up being tied up in the courts, and this is already tied up in the courts."
David Paterson insisted that a judge's ruling Tuesday by Justice Joseph Teresi would force the stalemate to end, and amended a proclamation calling extraordinary session to 10 a.m.
"We expect every senator to be there," Paterson told reporters in the Red Room, during his afternoon venting event. "And anyone who isn't, I would suggest, not relying on that lawyer to take action."
Both sides are unmoved. Republicans say they are appealing Teresi's ruling. As soon as they formally do, attorney Jack Casey said, they will be granted an automatic stay which will prevent them from being compelled to session.
Democrats blasted this Republican appeal as a shirking of duty. They have proclaimed they are leaving the negotiating table with only a list of immediately expiring legislation—which for now excludes reauthorization of mayoral school control—to be acted upon. It's not finalized, Democratic Senator Malcolm Smith insisted, but he's not setting aside a set time for input from Republicans.
In short, with less than 24 hours to go before several sales tax authorizations, the school control legislation and the Power for Jobs program expire, negotiations are still deadlocked.
The governor’s efforts aside, no official outside the Senate, including ones with significant interest in seeing the chamber up and running again, seems inclined to step into the fray. When pushed on the point in Brooklyn Monday, Michael Bloomberg replied "I don't know that I have any political influence."
Alan Lubin, the top lobbyist for New York State United Teachers, said the time was right for a "paradigm shift" in negotiations, but didn't see any state leader—David Paterson's attempts have thus far not yielded much of substance—capable of intervening.
"Cuomo has the stature, but why would he get involved? His job is attorney general," Lubin said. "I would bypass the governor's office and go right for the federal level."
(Cuomo has urged a resolution, in the way that someone might publicly hope for nice weather, but a spokesman has said firmly that Cuomo has no role in this dispute.)
Efforts to build up public pressure on both sides—Paterson urged citiziens to "pick up your phone, call a senator, and tell them to get back to work"&mdsh;seem to have overestimated the senators’ sense of shame, or vulnerability, and have yielded nothing.
Stuart Appelbaum, head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, has helped organize a coalition of labor and progressive groups pushing for the adoption of the Democrats' bipartisan operating agreement.
"I don' think that mediation is the issue. I think the issue is whether or not the Republicans are serious about trying to reach a compromise trying to reach a political reality," he said. "I would say the Republicans were not negotiating in good faith, that they do not want a solution."
Horner said that someone would have to yield. Eventually.
"Ultimately, there has to be a political agreement between the warring factions, to cobble together the leadership of the Senate. Short of that, we'll be here forever," he said. "It ultimately comes down to a political compromise. There's no other way around it. There's no other ringleader for the circus."