ALBANY -- Senate Republicans are now "nearly unanimous" in believing Majority Leader Dean Skelos must resign his leadership post as he faces federal corruption charges, according to two leading Republicans close to the situation.
"It isn't so much a question of 'if,' but 'how,' " said one Republican who asked not to be unidentified.
The second Republican agreed that even Skelos' closest allies now believe he has to step aside as the Senate's top leader for the good of the GOP conference.
Skelos and members of the Senate Republican majority are expected to talk through the weekend about how Skelos will leave the powerful post, which controls legislation and resources. A Republican senator said Skelos still refused to resign his leadership post Friday and raised the possibility that he could vacate his Senate seat. That would threaten the Republicans' narrow majority control of the Senate.
The Republicans said a closed-door conference is scheduled for Monday.
"I think it's over," a third Republican close to Skelos said of his leadership.
That view publicly is shared by other Republicans, including seven senators who have called for Skelos to step aside. The number has grown through the week to include at least one member, Sen. Kathleen Marchione (R-Halfmoon), who initially supported Skelos after he was charged.
Skelos, of Rockville Centre, had no comment Friday.
Federal officials claim the senator compelled a major real estate developer and an environmental company to hire his son, Adam, and send him title insurance and consulting work amounting to more than $200,000 in the past four years. Skelos has said he and his son are innocent.
Fifteen Republicans and a conservative Democrat who sits with the GOP signed a letter released late Wednesday night supporting Skelos. That was a bare majority of the conference.
In the closed-door meeting set for Monday, Skelos could offer his resignation and a new majority leader could be chosen before the full Senate reconvenes in the chamber. That would avoid another nasty floor fight with Democrats and a potential rare public split among Senate Republicans.
On Wednesday, Senate Democrats disrupted the legislative session with a parliamentary maneuver that would have suspended Senate rules to pave the way for a vote on a new majority leader. Republicans thwarted the effort in a loud, disruptive exchange by refusing to officially "recognize" the Democrats' proposal.
Emboldened by potential votes from GOP senators, Democrats vow to try their effort again as early as Monday.
Niagara County Sen. Robert Ortt, a Republican, said Thursday that he would support a motion to replace Skelos and would even propose it himself -- a rare break in the ranks in the highly disciplined GOP conference. "Every day this goes on is bad optics for Republicans," another Republican said on Friday.
Last Monday, Skelos won the support of a "consensus" of Republican senators in a closed-door session hours after he was charged. But he told his members he would "do the right thing" if the situation hurt the conference, according to one senator who spoke to Newsday.
The fight to be the next majority leader remains between two veteran, well-respected members.
Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) is chairman of the powerful Finance Committee. He has effectively run action on the Senate floor in the health-related absence of Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton), who has been indicted on charges that he lied to federal agents in an alleged scheme to land a job for his son.
Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) also has strong support within the conference. He is chairman of the high-profile Education Committee.
The Republican sources said replacing Skelos will be emotional, because Skelos brought them from the minority in 2008 and grew their ranks to win the full majority of the Senate last year -- the only statewide bastion of power for the GOP.
"Keeping this as a force together, that is the most important thing going forward," one Republican said.