See ya. He's no Lincoln; rather, he's the first
senator expelled since Lincoln's presidency.
State Senator Hiram Monserrate of Queens yesterday became the first legislator in New York to be expelled by his fellow senators since Abraham Lincoln was President.
Now an ex-Senator, Monserrate was convicted of misdemeanor assault charges committed against his then (and still?) girlfriend in December 2008 when he was Senator-elect and had not yet assumed office. Because she refused to testify against him, the judge would not convict on felony assault, which would have led to his automatic removal from office.
The Senate vote to expel was 53-8, with 29 Republicans and 24 Democrats in favor, and eight Democrats voting against expulsion. Interestingly, those voting against include most of the leadership: John Sampson, Eric Adams and Pedro Espada.
The Daily Politics
weblog and other outlets discuss the proceedings here
Senate Balance of Power Shifts Until Special Election
The Senate now has 31 Democrats and 30 Republicans for the next five weeks, until the special election for the seat is held on March 16th. Assemblyman Jose Peralta is expected to run for the seat and would win since the Queens 13th Senate district is lopsidedly Democratic (though watch for Monserrate himself to run for his old seat). In the interim, however, the Democratic majority lacks 32 votes to pass anything by itself.
I find this proceeding fascinating and bizarre. As low a character Mr. Monserrate is by committing domestic violence, his case was adjudicated in the courts. But, I appreciate a separate branch of government refusing to defer or accept such a court ruling and acting on a matter as it sees fit. Yet expulsion has not occurred in the Senate for nearly a century and a half, though its been populated no doubt by more than its share of scoundrels. Monserrate surely would have been challenged in a primary election and ousted by the district's voters had he remained a senator.
The Senate was simply not willing to allow a convicted domestic violence abuser remain in their midst.
Committee Report Led to Expulsion Vote
Sen. Eric Schneiderman of Manhattan chaired the bipartisan committee that reviewed the Monserrate case. The report
was thorough and impressive. Monserrate himself refused to appear before the committee. which no doubt took umbrage at his boycott. Big mistake. Had he gone before the committee and displayed remorse, he may have been spared expulsion and gotten a lesser discipline.
The committee recommended a floor vote of the full Senate be taken on expulsion -- stopping short of actually recommending Monserrate's ouster. Sen. Schneiderman himself favored expulsion. Yet, once a floor vote occurs, very few senators were willing to spare a domestic violence abuser. Too many nuances to explain, including misdemeanor versus felony conviction.
Senate Fissures Revealed
The Monserrate case again revealed the fractures within the narrow Senate Democratic majority, which met privately for four hours before the vote. Sen. Sampson, the conference leader who has the hardest job in state government, controls what gets voted on the Senate floor. He evidently felt he could not prevent a vote by the full Senate, yet he would not vote to expel since several members were pressuring him to block expulsion. Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., who also voted against expulsion, is now threatening to walk away from the Democratic conference, which would potentially reignite last summer's chaos. Even the minority Republicans do not want to revisit that whole absurdity, and instead would be content to see the Democrats remain in the titular majority to enact very unpopular budget cuts with the $8 billion gap facing the state.
State government continues to be interesting, to say the least. But that has not been a good thing for New York.
for The Chalkboard
(see me Twitter @ PeterMurphy26)