ALBANY -- Sen. Dean Skelos says Republicans won't go along with a Cuomo administration proposal to expand abortion rights -- signaling that the GOP won't compromise on every high-profile issue in 2013 despite having to share Senate power with Democrats.
Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has faced grumbling by some Republicans and the Conservative Party, a key GOP ally, after the new Senate "majority coalition" helped Cuomo enact a new gun-control bill earlier this month. Skelos has defended that decision by noting the number of anti-crime measures also in the new law. He also said Republicans are open to discussing a minimum-wage hike, another key initiative by Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).
But Skelos seemed to be drawing the line on abortion. He told the Conservative Party, at its annual political dinner Monday, that Republicans won't approve what he considers an expansion of late-term abortion rights."We will block that," Skelos told Conservatives, to applause.
His remarks came after Long Island senators met with Conservative leaders, who said they urged lawmakers not to continue "caving" to Democratic pressure.
"I think it's really simple for them: They have to keep their identity as Republicans," said Ed Walsh, Suffolk County Conservative chairman. After the meeting, he said: "I think the Republicans will be a lot more conservative going forward" this year.
Republicans lost outright control of the state Senate in last fall's elections. But after Election Day, Skelos negotiated a power-sharing agreement with Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), forming a coalition of all 30 Republicans and six breakaway Democrats -- leaving 27 mainline Democrats in the minority.
Skelos and Klein will alternate the title of Senate president and will agree on the flow of legislation.
The gun bill was the coalition's first big test. Cuomo and Democrats successfully pushed for tougher restrictions on semiautomatic weapons, but the final agreement also included tougher penalties for illegal guns and other measures Republicans wanted.
Now, Cuomo is advancing a "women's agenda," that includes "equal pay for equal work" provisions. It would allow late-term abortions not only if the mother's life was at stake but also if the mother's health is at risk, and would guarantee abortion access in New York should Roe v. Wade ever be overturned on the federal level. Laying out the agenda during his State of the State speech, the governor shouted three times: "It's her body! It's her choice!"
"The way I look at this legislation is, No. 1, it is really an expansion" of late-term abortion, Skelos said Tuesday. "The bottom line is, in New York State, abortion is legal. And all the polling we have done indicates that nobody in New York State, or very few, honestly believe that abortion is going to be made illegal."