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Budget vote breakdown
The Long Island delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives broke 2 to 3 in the vote on the two-year federal budget deal — but, interestingly, they didn’t break along party lines.
Lee Zeldin, burnishing his deficit hawk credentials, voted no, and he explained why on Twitter. “Our great nation simply cannot afford the price tag on this Senate budget bill as is & the process was just as flawed.” He was among the 29 percent of House Republicans voting no.
Zeldin also praised Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster, tweeting, “He’s ripping the band-aid right off & simply delivering one hard truth after another.”
Among Republicans, Peter King voted yes, telling The Point it’s essential to fund the military without the uncertainty of continuing resolutions.
“Is it a perfect bill? No. But we’re always hearing people want a compromise,” King said.
“Gen. Mattis has made the case to me that these constant interruptions have really created a shortage of funding to the military,” he added.
King also approved of the deal’s disaster aid for Puerto Rico and California, infrastructure spending and funding for veterans and children’s health care.
More than six hours after Zeldin’s tweet supporting Rand Paul, King, who is often not on the same policy planet with Zeldin, tweeted, “Rand Paul’s latest stunt demonstrates yet again that he is a self-centered loser.”
While the budget vote displays the philosophical divide eating at the GOP today, Long Island’s Democrats were also split.
Kathleen Rice voted in favor, citing in a statement the “important investments in infrastructure and in combating the opioid epidemic, among other Democratic priorities.” Rice voted against House Leader Nancy Pelosi, whom she has called on to step down, but Rice was with 62 percent of House Democrats.
Greg Meeks and Tom Suozzi both voted against the budget deal — a more common Democratic stance.
“This deal does not offer a solution on Dreamers, the deficit, or the debt,” Suozzi said in a statement. “The stock market is unstable because the deficit is exploding due to the tax giveaway, and now this irresponsible budget.”
As of this writing, a spokesman said, Meeks was still working on his statement.
The uneasy truce between mainline State Senate Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference remains in a holding pattern until the April 24 special elections, even after a sexual harassment allegation against IDC leader Jeffrey Klein. But that hasn’t stopped primary challengers to IDC members from jumping into districts on their own.
This week, Sen. José Peralta of Queens got a third challenger for September’s primary: activist Andrea Marra, who moved to the district in 2009 and is vying to be the State Legislature’s first openly transgender elected official.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s former staffer and Queens native Jessica Ramos declared in January. And Stuyvesant High School senior Tahseen Chowdhury has been running since last spring.
The Point checked in with the challengers about where their Democratic loyalties lie, which could become instructive should the mainline-IDC truce fall apart.
All are firmly on the mainline side, in comparison with Peralta.
“I’m a real Democrat, and I will vote with my party,” Ramos said in a statement.
Marra’s response: “Of course I’m 100 percent with the mainline Democrats. I’m a Democrat, and doing anything else just hurts our community.”
Asked whether she would support a truce in which Klein retains a leadership position, Marra left some breathing room: “I believe that all Democrats should stand with the Democratic conference to form a majority. How exactly that happens, I defer to the current Democratic leader, Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins.”
Chowdhury said he has “yet to decide if I would support Klein in a leadership role, but I am open to something that will provide strong representation” for the district.
Ramos, who showed up at a news conference Thursday with other State Senate candidates to decry current Senate policies on sexual harassment, went further against Klein: “An accused sexual predator should not be in a leadership position of the Senate or any legislative body in this country.”
And over in the Bronx...
There is no drama about the outcome of one of the two State Senate seats up in the April 24 special election. Democratic Assemb. Luis Sepulveda is the almost-certain nominee of the Bronx County committee on Feb. 15, and that practically guarantees his election.
But it was unclear whether he would side with the mainline Democrats, who are trying to take the chamber back from Republicans and the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, which has given Sepulveda organizational and financial support in his six years in the Assembly. The mainline Democrats and the IDC have an uneasy truce to work together.
When asked to choose his stance, Sepulveda told The Point on Thursday, “I will be with the mainline Democrats.”
“For me, it’s like a family dispute,” Sepulveda said, indicating that he hopes to help bridge the gap. “I’ve made clear that I want to unify the Democrats so we can have the majority.”
Sepulveda defended IDC leader Sen. Jeff Klein, who a former aide has accused of sexual assault, as someone whose name might still be cleared. And Sepulveda added that it’s almost inevitable that Klein will retain a leadership role in the Senate conference.
“If we’re speaking reality, the only way you’re going to unify is if you have co-leaders,” he predicted.
Flashback: Olympics cartoon from 1960
Who’s the boss? Suffolk-style
Fact No. 1: Angela Ramos, wife of state Assemb. Phil Ramos, tried to knock off Suffolk Legis. Monica Martinez in a Democratic Party primary in September, but lost.
Fact No. 2: Phil Ramos’ daughter Tina was recently busted down from her $138,663-a-year Suffolk Board of Elections position as Hispanic outreach coordinator to a $45,994 assistant clerk job.
Fact No. 3: Tina Ramos was replaced by assistant clerk Marisol Martinez, the sister-in-law of Monica Martinez and wife of Babylon Town Board member Tony Martinez.
Conclusion: If Suffolk politics were a TV show, this would be an episode of “Who’s the Boss?”
Rich Schaffer, the party’s longtime county leader and Babylon Town supervisor, has been in Monica Martinez’ corner since she defeated incumbent Legis. Rick Montano in a primary in 2013. Montano had been a thorn in the side of both County Executive Steve Bellone and Schaffer, especially for making an unbacked run at a Schaffer favorite, Republican State Sen. Owen Johnson, in 2012.
So, enter Martinez, exit Montano.
Shortly after Montano’s 2013 defeat, the wife of then-Islip Democratic chairman Jerry Pallotta got a job as an assistant clerk at the Board of Elections. Pallotta’s town committee had backed Martinez over Montano.
The lesson apparently did not take with Phil Ramos, the driving force behind his wife’s bid. Schaffer told Newsday last summer he was “sad” and “mad” about their decision to try to take out Martinez.
And after they failed, history repeated itself, and the Ramoses learned anew that no one beats Schaffer in the “Game of Thrones.”