What looked more like an uphill battle in the minority and leading to the creation of the Independent Democratic Conference just a few short years ago, Democrats in the state Senate have announced they will have a supermajority over conservatives coming into 2021.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins quipped on Monday that it was “super” to officially be able to say that Democrats will have the biggest majority in the history of New York, with over 40 members.
“We defended seats downstate and made incredible gains, we have flipped seats upstate and in western New York. You have to consider that that’s extraordinary because of the gerrymandered way that the districts are drawn,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We know that on election night many people wrote us off, they said it was a big red wave and they were already predicting our shrinking majority. As we know, the red wave really turned out to be a red mirage.”
In 2018, Republicans held a slim majority in Albany under the leadership of Senator John Flanagan – who announced his retirement in June. Going into 2019, after a major progressive push to oust members of the IDC, Albany went to session with 39 Democratic members of the Senate and the following year with 40 out of a total of 63 seats.
This will give the Senate a veto-proof majority going forward with future bills and will be aided by the two-thirds Democratic majority in the state assembly.
According to Stewart-Cousins, the majority has already accomplished the goal of passing bail reform and police reform, goals which have not gone without criticism from law enforcement and others. But Stewart-Cousins was self-assured in these accomplishments stating that the voters have chosen to expand their power since 2020 when bail reform was implemented.
So was Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris who said bail reform opponents had failed to turn back the clock under a “mandate” from the voters.
“Every voter who voted in a state senate election knew that bail was an issue and they made their choice and they returned not just the number of democrats we had but even more to the senate,” Gianaris said. “The opponents of bail reform took their best shot and they failed, miserably. There were nine freshman members who were in competitive races. Seven have won their races, two are still in absentee count. Six of those seven won by larger margins that they did in 2018. So if anyone tries to tell you that, in fact, we should have done better, no majority has ever done better in an election in this state’s history.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo commented on the supermajority earlier on Monday stating that it will not make a great difference pushing the progressive movement in New York and Steward-Cousins believes the greatest advantage of this will come in attempts to deliver a balanced budget.
This will hinge on whether or not the federal government is able to deliver additional stimulus packages that fund state and local government, which is even more dependent upon the willingness of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bringing the bills to the floor for a vote.