Two weeks ago, the IDC, a breakaway group of Democrats who have a power-sharing coalition with State Senate Republicans, began its “Call the Roll” campaign to demand all Democrats pledge to vote for progressive causes.
On May 24, Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans, fired off a letter to IDC leader Jeff Klein. He blamed the eight-member IDC for preventing Democrats from having a majority in the chamber.
“It would make more sense for your 25 percent to rejoin the rest of the Democrats rather than everyone else join you and support issues you deem a priority,” Felder wrote. “Who are you to decide what legislative priorities are for loyal Democrats across New York State? There are many significant issues that are important to Democrats.”
He urged the IDC to rejoin the Democratic fold rather than just highlighting issues that “distinguish you from the Republican Conference.”
“Instead of sending letters to other Democrats and producing fancy videos to make us believe that you are advocating for issues important to Democrats,” Felder said, “I suggest you put aside any personal conflicts you may have with the Senate Democrats and unconditionally and publicly rejoin the Democrats.”
State Senator Jose Peralta, the most recent addition to the IDC, fired back last Thursday at an unrelated event. He flipped the onus onto Felder, implying he’s what’s keeping the Democrats from unity.
“Why doesn’t he go back? If he wanted the unity to happen, he should’ve said, ‘I’ll lead by example and go back. Join me.’” Peralta said. “What he said was, ‘You should go back, and then we’ll talk.’”
Peralta said the IDC’s latest campaign is an attempt to get 32 members of the State Senate to vote and pass progressive policies like the DREAM Act, single-payer health care and strengthening abortion laws.
“It doesn’t matter if 32 of us are all together in the room, we still need 32 members to vote for it,” he said. “If you don’t want to sign the pledge, that’s fine. Co-sponsor the legislation so we can see there’s 32 members willing to vote for this.”
Noting that there are only a few weeks left in the legislative session in Albany, Peralta insisted on focusing on the issues to “not waste time.”
“As we go back and forth in negotiations, the bottom line is that everybody wants to be under one Democratic umbrella,” he said. “Everybody wants to do that, but that’s going to take time.”
Peralta named five mainline Democrats, Ruben Diaz, Sr., Timothy Kennedy, John Brooks, Joseph Addabbo and Todd Kaminsky, as five “conservative Democrats that will never want to pass certain progressive issues.” Add Felder to that list, and it’s unlikely Democrats alone can pass those bills, he said.
“Our conference is the conference that’s 100 percent for all those issues,” he said.
For example, in 2014 when Peralta was still with the mainline Democrats, he brought the DREAM Act to the floor, but it failed to pass. He cited two Democrats who voted against it, including Felder, for its failure.
He said without 32 votes again this year, proposed legislation like that would be doomed again.
“We don’t want to bring them onto the floor just for the sake of bringing them to the floor and have them fail,” Peralta said. “Why would we want to do that?”
“If you have 32 members signing on any one of those particular bills and we can’t bring it onto the floor, then that’s on us,” he added. “But call our bluffs. Any one of those bills, pick and choose. Sign 32 members, then we’ll see if it comes to the floor.”