BY JORDAN GIBBONS
On Wednesday, the State Senate Democrats staged a walkout to protest the Republican Majority for refusing to vote on removing Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) as the Majority Leader due to his recent indictment.
Skelos was arrested on Monday, along with his son Adam, by federal authorities on extortion, fraud and bribe solicitation charges.
State Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park) said the refusal to vote demonstrates divisions within the Republican Conference, since they won’t publicly vote to support Skelos or call upon him to step down.
“We can not continue as though this is business as usual,” Sanders told the Press of Southeast Queens. “We’re not going to pretend there’s nothing wrong in Albany. Just give us somebody who is not under indictment.”
He added that when a person is under indictment, “the odious cloud he has over him is too strong and will prevent him from leading the State of New York.”
Sanders said that the leader of the Senate cannot simultaneously execute his duties as leader, and defend himself against the legal charges.
“He should step down, and the Senate should be given the opportunity to elect a new leader,” he said. “One who is not under a cloud of suspicion and can govern effectively.”
State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis) called the behavior of the Senate Majority an “embarrassment to all legislators across New York State.”
“Despite the demand for increased accountability and transparency from those electing us, the Majority Conference instead opted to use an illegal tactic to block due process to a vote that could have removed Senator Skelos from his position,” Comrie said. “After today’s debacle, the need for reform is more clear than ever before.”
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, which did not walk out of the session, agreed that Wednesday incident was an embarrassment, but that it was caused by the Democrats.
Avella told the Press of Southeast Queens that there were people being honored on the Senate floor who had to witness everything and there were other issues on the agenda that needed to be addressed.
“You try and make your point and you sit down,” Avella said. “I think it is an embarrassment to the entire chamber.”
Avella said that it is ultimately up to the Republicans to decide how to handle Skelos, not the Democrats.
“This is a matter that has to be done within the Republican Conference,” he said. “They stopped the work of the Senate and we have a lot of work to do before the session ends.”
Sanders anticipates a similar circumstance on Monday, when the Senate returns to the floor if nothing is decided about Skelos.
“Come Monday, we will absolutely not participate and pretend nothing is wrong,” he said. “It has insulted the people of New York State.”
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.