Thursday, January 8, 2009

Role Reversal in the Senate, and Emotions Run High

“My goodness,” Senator Malcolm A. Smith of Queens, the new majority leader, said with a sigh. “A humble boy from Queens who used to ride a bicycle delivering groceries, and now I’m delivering on a $121 billion budget. This is a great state.”

Senator Malcolm A. Smith after being elected majority leader. “This is a great state,” he said. At far right is Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president.

The vagaries of politics.

Indeed, with power comes problems: a $15 billion budget deficit, a fractious Democratic caucus that only at the 11th hour found enough votes to elect Mr. Smith as its leader, and a majority that rests on a one-vote advantage over the Republicans.

“The Democrats have now got to perform,” said Senator Thomas W. Libous, the Binghamton Republican who is now deputy minority leader. “They’ve waited for this for a long time, and now they’ve got to perform.”

Better than the Republicans, it is to be hoped.

“You learn to adjust,” said Senator William J. Larkin Jr. , a Republican from the Hudson Valley who lost his chairmanship of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, among other perks.

Love that title: Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

“I enjoyed the title and all that,” he said, “but these things are not that exciting.”

So he liked it, but it is no big deal.

Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who made a rare appearance at the Capitol on Wednesday to hear Gov. David A. Paterson’s State of the State speech, said the reality of having a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate “warms the cockles of my heart.”

Now here is someone with enough spine to be partisan; good for Cuomo.

“The idea of a Democratic Legislature, all I can say about that, oh, man,” Mr. Cuomo said. “If I could have had one for six months. I would have settled for six months.”

Wistful at the dream of power.

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