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Queens Sen. Jose Peralta joins renegade Dems, boosts GOP

Democratic State Sen. Jose Peralta of Queens joined

Democratic State Sen. Jose Peralta of Queens joined the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference, which stands with Republicans in the legislative body. Photo Credit: Nysenate.gov

ALBANY — The Independent Democratic Conference strengthened its power-sharing agreement with Republicans in the Senate majority Wednesday by adding an eighth member, Sen. Jose Peralta of Queens.

“Today’s political climate demands that progressive legislators take bold action to deliver for their constituents,” Peralta said in a written statement. “That’s why I’ve decided to join the Independent Democratic Conference, where I can best affect progressive change on issues like affordable housing, higher education, school funding equity, homelessness reforms, economic development, infrastructure upgrades, affordable healthcare, senior citizen protections and so much more.”

Peralta would also be in line for a greater leadership position and the stipend that comes with it.

“The bigger the group gets, the more tempting it is join it,” said Gerald Benjamin, distinguished professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz. “I think it helps the governor.”

The IDC remains close to Cuomo and could help get to the floor some of his liberal proposals, which would be politically dicey for Republicans to sponsor.

“Senator Peralta knows that at this moment in time, it’s critical to join the IDC, not just sit on the sidelines, in order to bring about progressive change,” said Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), who leads the IDC. “As the IDC grows again, this is another validation of our track record of getting things done.”

Peralta is a progressive Democrat whose legislation has fit into the IDC, which was created in 2011 with four members. The IDC broke away from the Democratic conference to work with the Senate’s Republican majority after a brief, chaotic two years in which Democrats held the majority. The IDC has partnered with Republicans in exchange for power-sharing agreements that brought them leadership posts, stipends and greater influence in bringing progressive measures to the floor of the Senate, some of which had long been blocked by the Senate Republican majority.

Although there are 32 Democrats in the 63-seat Senate, the party doesn’t control the chamber.

Thirty-one Republicans, the now eight-member IDC and one conservative Democrat who sits with the GOP conference are firmly in control.

Mainline Democrats blasted the move.

“It’s mind-boggling that while on the national level Democrats are gearing up to resist the Trump administration and its attempts to move the country backwards, we have Democrats here in New York propping up an artificial Republican majority,” said Mike Murphy, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers). “We need elected leaders that will put people ahead of personal gain.”

The IDC has been steadily growing. Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Brooklyn) joined the IDC last year, and Sen. Marisol Alcantara (D-Bronx) joined this year.

The liberal Working Families Party, which is influential in Democratic politics, said Peralta was agreeing to side with Republicans at a critical time for the state and country.

“Today, Donald Trump is set to announce executive actions targeting Muslims and immigrants,” said Working Families Party state director Bill Lipton. “Millions are marching in the streets of big cities and small towns in resistance. The way to stand up to Trump’s attacks on our democracy and working families cannot be to empower Republicans in the State Senate, whose goals are aligned with the Trump regime.”

With Yancey Roy

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