Silver and Assembly Dems Defend Their “Democratic” Process

In the latest New York Observer, Azi Paybarah talks to state legislators and other insiders about how the congestion pricing non-vote went down on Monday. Conclusion: Assembly Democrats told Speaker Sheldon Silver what to do, not the other way around. And by killing the pricing bill behind closed doors, the thinking goes, the Democratic conference rightfully exerted its power. 

The way the Democratic members see it, opening potentially contested votes up to all the members of the Assembly would be a voluntary abdication of party advantage. The will of the majority of Democrats, they point out, correctly, might not be done.

“If you had 44 Republicans and 32 Democrats, you could theoretically pass a bill that a majority of the Democratic conference opposed,” said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester, who emerged as the vocal public leader of the opposition to congestion pricing. “That is not the way we run the system. And frankly, it’s not the way we should run the system.”

Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, a good-government type from the East Side of Manhattan, explained it by saying, “The idea that democracy did not occur here [because] it was not a floor vote really is incorrect. Democracy occurred with every member of the Assembly majority providing the speaker with his or her views, whether it was in conference or when the speaker polled members.”

“The process works in ways in which the committee structure weeds out bad bills and kills them,” Mr. Brodsky explained. “In this case, the issue was so important that the conference substituted for a committee meeting. It was a committee of the whole, as it were.”

And there you have it: democracy, firing-squad style. You know the victim is dead, but you'll never know who pulled the trigger.