Senate Remains Deadlocked, Court Could Rule Tomorrow

A power sharing deal and a flip by a dissident Dem splits the Senate 31-31

A judge gave the warring New York State Senate until Tuesday to hash out an agreement over control of the chamber, as lawmakers ended a session Monday without securing a power-sharing deal.

A dissident Democrat who helped Republicans seize power, Hiram Monserrate, of Queens, returned to the Democratic fold Monday and declared that Democrats must retake the majority he cost them.

"We need to take back the Senate," said Monserrate, insisting Democrats were united.

A seven-day stretch that began with a shocking parliamentary revolt orchestrated by a coalition of Republicans and the two rogue Democrats -- Monserrate and Sen. Pedro Espada -- resulted in a 31-31 split between the Democratic conference and the uneasy coalition.

Earlier Monday, Democrats said they had reached a power-sharing deal with Republicans -- but by late afternoon the deadlock had not been broken. Gov. David Paterson said he might try to meet with leaders Monday night to try and iron out a plan.

A state court that threatened to mandate a power-sharing structure, heartened by Paterson's involvement, gave senators until Tuesday morning to agree on a way to share power.

Monserrate, who still faces an assault charge that could cost him his seat if convicted, extracted a leadership change among Senate Democrats before he rejoined the conference Monday.

Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn was named to a newly created position of conference leader in charge of daily operation and, as Monserrate put it, to be "the face of the conference."

Where that leaves Sen. Malcolm Smith, of Queens, who was elected majority leader in January, and his deputy, Sen. Jeffrey Klein, of the Bronx, wasn't clear. That will be decided in coming days, Smith said, although he insists he is still majority leader and president of the Senate.

"As you know in any business or corporate structure, things will function where you have a chairman (and) you have a CEO," Smith said Monday. "You can look at John Sampson as the CEO, running the day-to-day operation of this conference."

Espada, of the Bronx, maintained Monday that he is majority leader, the Senate's top position, because 32 senators voted for him during the takeover a week ago. Even though Monserrate has since rejoined Democrats, the party has only 31 votes, not enough to overcome what Espada said was last week's legally binding vote.

Espada told NBCNewYork that "yours truly is still president pro tempore of the Senate." He dismissed reports that Sampson will be "conference leader" and Smith will remain Majority Leader, saying "good luck to them in getting 32 votes for that."

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