TRENTON – A heated exchange on the Senate floor ensued today between Senate President Steve Sweeney and Republican Sen. Michael Doherty.
The exchange took place while lawmakers were discussing a veto override attempt, which failed to pass out of the upper chamber.
Doherty, who originally supported the proposal regarding increased transparency at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was speaking on the Senate floor when he began to veer off and discuss ways the Senate already has oversight over the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Sweeney asked Doherty to keep his comments germane to the subject.
“You are to stay on this bill or please sit down,” Sweeney shouted at Doherty moments after smacking his gavel, calling on the senator to refrain from speaking over him.
“Is this how we’re going to do this senator?” Sweeney asked, declaring the senator out of order.
“Look, we haven’t done this in the three years I’ve been here,” Sweeney said, referring to the lawmaker’s conduct. “If this is how we have to go, I’m ready to go.”
Doherty ultimately conceded during the verbal spat and lawmakers moved on to vote on the proposal.
Following the Senate session, Doherty said he was simply attempting to call attention to the ways lawmakers already have oversight over the Port Authority, arguing Senate Democrats are being “hypocrites.”
“I felt that the door was open by Sen. Gordon and Weinberg when they talked about how we need more oversight, we need more accountability and we need more answers, and to that I agree,” Doherty said. “(But,) our ability … to get the answers to us is afforded to us.”
He cited the Senate’s ability to confirm or deny members to serve on the Port Authority’s board of commissioners, arguing that when Commissioner Ray Pocino went before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, Senate lawmakers did little in the way of asking Pocino tough questions and to “grill” him over the inner workings of the Port Authority.
“I thought it was right on point because we were talking about accountability and oversight,” he said, explaining his reason for attempting to discuss information he argued was germane to the bill on the Senate floor.
“I feel like I was cut off,” Doherty said.