A renegade faction of New York State Senate Democrats appears poised to rejoin the rest of the body’s Democratic caucus, an outcome that has eluded the two sides for more than eight years.
The apparent agreement was urged on leaders of both factions by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who is seeking re-election this year, and other New York power brokers – including U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley, a top Democrat in Washington – at a meeting at the Capitol Grille, a Manhattan steakhouse, on Tuesday night.
Despite the handshake agreement, negotiations between the two sides on final arrangements are ongoing and people with knowledge of the situation cautioned The New York Times that the agreement remains fluid until it is publicly announced.
If the agreement holds, it would conclude years of bitter infighting in Albany. The Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight Democratic state senators, broke away from the rest of their colleagues and handed power in the State Senate to Republicans in a leadership vote just days after Cuomo took office in 2011.
The dispute has led to a bizarre situation where, despite Democrats commanding a majority in the body, Republicans – aided by the Independent Democratic Conference – are in charge on a day-to-day basis and have the ability to stop most Democratic priorities.
Many pundits believe that Cuomo has not done enough to bring the two sides of his own party together, and the dispute over the State Senate has been raised as an issue in ‘Sex and the City’ star Cynthia Nixon’s primary campaign against Cuomo.
If the two sides reunified and Democrats reclaimed the top leadership positions in the Senate, the result would be a major victory for Cuomo and likely ease the passage of more liberal legislation in New York State.