ALBANY – It was a heated scene on the State Senate floor Wednesday as Senate Democrats walked out of the chamber after being refused to vote for new leadership in the wake of the Dean Skelos corruption allegations.
Skelos – The Republican majority leader – and his son Adam were arrested Monday to answer a federal complaint that charged them with bribery and extortion in relation to legislative favors allegedly performed by the Long Island lawmaker to benefit his son’s employers and clients. Both have declared their innocence, and Skelos remains in power with the support of a “consensus” of his members.
Senate Democrats announced their intention to press for a vote on Skelos’ leadership in a news conference just before Wednesday’s session began. Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), the party’s deputy leader, verbally sparred with presiding Republican Sen. Jack Martins, who would not allow for a suspension of Senate rules in order to allow for the leadership vote to take place. The purpose for the vote would have been to put the chamber’s Republicans on record on whether they support or oppose Skelos.
Martins insisted the motion had not been properly introduced and as a result, would not be acted on. This drew the ire of Gianaris, who’s microphone was turned off as he lobbed heavy criticism at the process, repeatedly calling it shameful. As a show of solidarity, the Democratic conference filed out of the chamber and did not return.
Democrats said they would continue to press their case when the Legislature returns to Albany on Monday.
Also Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke his silence on the charges facing Skelos following an appearance at Syracuse University. The governor said that “If the charges are correct, it’s deeply disturbing.” But the governor refused to call on the Republican conference to act, saying It’s not his place to tell them who their leader should be.
The charges against Skelos, like those that led to the January arrest of former assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, were brought by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara, who is also reportedly looking into Cuomo and his cancellation of the Moreland Commission panel on public corruption.