Dems lock GOP out of New York Senate

Chaos reigns once again in New York's legislature, with neither party truly in control

By Alex Koppelman

Published June 23, 2009 7:45PM (EDT)

Good news, South Carolinians. Your governor may have gone missing, but it could be worse -- you could, like New Yorkers are doing today, be wishing your elected officials would disappear.

Tuesday marked just the latest twist in an ongoing, and embarrassing, fight over which party will control New York's State Senate. The saga began two weeks ago, when two Democrats joined with Republicans to wrest power from the Democratic Party, which had gained the majority in last year's election after a four-decade drought. Democrats, though, weren't willing to accept the results of the coup, and wouldn't go back to work. With the body deadlocked and neither party willing to cede control, Gov. David Paterson called a special session to try to force the two sides to come to an arrangement.

So before the special session was gaveled to order at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Democrats snuck in to the chamber through a back entrance and locked themselves in -- and the Republicans out. By doing so, they beat the GOP to the punch; Republicans were going to enter the chamber at 2 p.m.

Eventually, the Democrats did let their opponents in to the Senate, but that only led to more tension. A Republican tried to go to the rostrum in order to preside, but there was already a Democrat up there, so a sergeant at arms blocked the Republican's way. Then, Republicans started holding the session, presiding from the floor. Democrats, though, refused to participate, but the GOP went ahead and acted like they were. Oh, and there are now two separate gavels being used.

If you're confused, you're not the only one. It's a mess.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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