More Madness in Albany: Democrats Lock Themselves in State Senate Chamber [Updated]

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Photo: AP

Senate Democrats emerged from their caucus earlier today and announced that they were unable to reach a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans in order to get sessions officially started again. "We’ve concluded a round of negotiations between the Democratic conference and the Republicans, along with Sen. Espada," Senator Eric Schneiderman told the Daily News. "At this point they refuse to enter into an operating agreement to put aside the issue of who’s the temporary president of the Senate so that we can agree on rules to conduct the extraordinary session. We hope that they will come back to the table." Democrats refuse to recognize turncoat Espada as president pro tempore of the Senate. The Democratic team then entered the Senate chamber and locked the doors. For a while, reporters could do nothing but peek through the window at the legislators as they milled about, but then the lockout was broken by Espada, whose office has access to a balcony in the chamber.

Once allowed in, reporters began shouting questions at the assembled Democrats, who answered only a few of them. "We're going to have a session," explained Malcolm Smith, whom Democrats maintain is still the Senate majority leader. A session was scheduled to be held by Republicans today at 2 p.m. It remains to be seen whether the Republicans will allow them into the chamber for it.

Smith would not say who would preside in the session, but he said: "We're getting ready, we're going through some procedures." Republicans have already blasted this latest maneuver. "They have not moved off their desperate attempt to cling to the power they lost two weeks ago," said Republican leader Dean Skelos. "They continue to boycott session, they refuse to provide staff for session, and they won’t turn on the microphones or cameras so the public can see what is going on in our chamber. Their actions have cost us two weeks of work.”

Update: [Ed. Chris Smith phoned this one in.] With a few minutes to go before the Republicans are scheduled to enter the chamber, it appears that the entire Democratic squad is in place. Some are hovering around the dais, presumably to keep Republicans off it. They've given the gavel to Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, and buzz in the reporters' balcony has it that the Dems are hoping to make it awkward for any Republican who may try to grab it by picking a woman.