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Jeff Klein: Unity of Senate Dems forced by GOP ‘brick wall’

State Sen. Jeff Klein, former leader of the

State Sen. Jeff Klein, former leader of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, seen here on Jan. 16, 2017. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — The former leader of the state Senate’s breakaway Independent Democratic Conference that will unite Tuesday with mainstream Democrats said the reunion is permanent and will stick regardless of whether Republicans maintain their slim Senate majority in the fall elections.

“One conference, no longer having the IDC, with Andrea Stewart-Cousins the majority leader is the way to get things done and move forward,” Sen. Jeff Klein, the IDC founder and leader, told Newsday. “This is it. . . . No more IDC.”

Cuomo, leader of the state Democratic Party, had allied with the IDC and the Senate Republican majority since 2011. Cuomo, however, faced growing pressure this election year from his Democratic primary foe, activist and actress Cynthia Nixon, and other liberals to unite Senate Democrats.

Klein (D-Bronx), who begins this week as deputy minority leader under Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, said the catalyst for the reunification wasn’t liberal pressure in New York.

Rather, Klein said Democrats had to pull together in response to Republican policies in Washington, and the failure of the state Senate GOP to challenge them.

He said state Republicans refused to work with him on more protections for immigrants as President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress took a hard line on immigration. Klein also said state Republicans failed to “lean in” on efforts to mitigate provisions in Trump’s tax law that limit deductibility of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns.

“We hit a brick wall,” Klein said.

In negotiations over the new state budget, which were completed March 30, many measures he and Cuomo had sought, such as extending the waiting period for firearm purchases and early voting were, blocked by the Senate’s Republican majority.

“The vast majority of New Yorkers want Democrats and Republicans to work together to get results,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for the Republican majority. “The radical agenda being advanced on the other side would result in massive tax increases, give free college tuition to illegals and reward New York City at the expense of the rest of the state.”

Klein said the loggerheads with Republicans meant the IDC had to band together with Democrats, even in the minority, and work to take the majority in the November elections.

“It’s about legislating,” Klein said in his new office, a cramped space compared with the two spacious offices he had as IDC leader and Senate vice president. “And I think the best way to do that is electing a Democratic majority.”

Although the Senate Democrats will officially unify Tuesday in their first closed-door conference, the pressure on Klein, former IDC members and Cuomo isn’t letting up.

On Saturday, Nixon won the liberal Working Families Party line on the November ballot. That’s an important line to attract liberal and independent voters, and one Cuomo had fought for in past years.

Klein and seven former IDC members also still face Democratic primaries from foes who question their loyalty to Democratic principles.

“Jeff Klein, the voice of unification and reform? Nobody is going to buy that,” said Bill Lipton, director of the New York Working Families Party.

“The guy who spent the last eight years — two of them with Trump in office — keeping the Republicans and his and their real estate donors in power, has zero credibility on this issue,” Lipton said.


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