nterviewed by Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Press Room this morning, Sampson cast the Senate Republicans as a conference that will claw its way back to power even when it falls into the majority and ignores the will of the voters.
“The will of the people can be usurped by 30 Republicans who voted for Mitt Romney,” Sampson told Arbetter.
Senate Republicans have been able to cobble together a coalition with five breakaway Democrats in the Independent Democratic Conference, plus Sen.-elect Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who has pledged to sit with the GOP come January.
Democrats will have a numerical majority in the chamber next year, but the mainline conference will not be included in the rotating Senate presidency, which is being shared by IDC leader Jeff Klein and GOP chief Dean Skelos.
Klein, facing heat from the Democratic base of the party over the deal with Republicans, has pledged to enact a “progressive” agenda that includes a minimum wage increase, curtailing stop-and-frisk arrests in New York City and campaign-finance reform. Much of what Klein has said he can pass lines up with what Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in a “litmus” test
But Sampson in today’s interview says these were all issues that Republicans in the majority could have taken up, along with a fracking ban and gun control measures, but did not.
“It’s disheartening, but most of all the voters are saying to themselves, what more can we do? My conference is saying the same thing,” Sampson said.
The concern from Democratic lawmakers is that the IDC and Senate Republicans may work to pass half-a-loaf measures that don’t go far enough. But with some Republicans staunch opponents, the coalition would likely need some Democratic support.
But Sampson says that isn’t going to happen.
“We’re not going to vote for watered down progressive issues, period, exclamation point,” he said.
Sampson said he has been trading texts messages with Klein over the last few days in the wake of the rally with the Rev. Al Sharpton, in which Sampson pledged to step down as Democratic leader if the IDC were to return to the Democratic fold.