Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday broke his longstanding position of staying out of the Legislature’s internal politics, slamming Republican and Democratic senators and then issuing his own litmus test of policy goals for legislators to win his support.
Cuomo delivered his edict a day after Republicans created an unprecedented coalition with five breakaway Democrats to form a bipartisan majority to control the chamber. Cuomo told senators from each party to support his goals or lose his critical support, just as the Republicans and Independent Democratic Conference leaders are trying to shore up a partnership.
Under the coalition, Republicans will alternate leadership with the separate Independent Democratic Conference, even though Democrats in total won more seats in the November elections than Republicans.
“Elections often clarify political situations, but sometimes confuse them,” Cuomo wrote in a stern newspaper opinion piece released Wednesday.
“Neither the Republicans nor Democratic conferences come to this juncture with clean hands,” Cuomo wrote, adding: “Corruption is no stranger to the Senate.”
The Democratic governor blamed Republicans for blocking progressive measures for decades while they were in charge. He also says his fellow Democrats squandered their leadership when they held the majority from 2008 to 2010.
Cuomo said in a statement released Wednesday that members seeking his support need to back his current proposals, including raising the minimum wage and reforming campaign finance laws.
The broadside came less than 24 hours after Cuomo issued a statement through a spokesman that “this is an internal legislative matter … The governor will withhold judgment until he sees how the Senate functions and acts on critical issues facing the state.”
On Wednesday, Cuomo said those critical issues facing the state are his own. He said he won’t be tied to supporting “often misleading party labels.”
“I prefer to base my support — or lack thereof — on specific policy positions. As governor, I have specific programs and progressive initiatives that I believe must be continued or enacted, and I will give or withhold my support based on an individual legislator’s support of those issues.”
The Republican and traditional Democratic conference wouldn’t comment on the tone of Cuomo’s statement or his overture to individual legislators rather than party leaders.
“We’ve already proven that we can partner with the Independent Democratic Conference and Gov. Cuomo to find bipartisan solutions that move this state forward, even on the difficult issues,” said Scott Reif, a Republican spokesman.
The Independent Democratic Conference has from its start two years ago endorsed Cuomo’s agenda.
“We believe that by being a separate conference and by working with both the Democratic and Republican conferences we can bring order, function and balance to the state Senate and pass our key progressive reforms,” the IDC said. “We are more than willing to vote with the Democratic conference to assure social progress and the Republican conference to assure fiscal prudence.”
Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy said his conference has long supported the progressive goals of Cuomo and voters responded by choosing more Democrats than Republicans to run the Senate.
“The governor has now presented a similar agenda including many issues the new Republican coalition has opposed,” Murphy said. “Senate Democrats will continue to lead the fight on this progressive agenda, and we will hold the Senate Republican coalition accountable.”
Cuomo is starting to catch criticism from his Democratic progressive base for his decision not to support Democrats in the elections to overturn a 33-29 majority of Republicans, with whom he was closely allied his first two years in office.
“Cuomo not only endorsed Republican senators for re-election but he also refused to say which party he preferred to see control the Senate — even after Dems won a surprise majority on election day,” said the Daily Kos website, a liberal political blog. “This is the sort of thing that gets the No Labels and America Elects crowd all excited, but if you’re looking for a successor to Obama who will be a strong Democrat who will fight for Democratic ideals and his or her party, don’t be looking at Cuomo.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.