Monday, December 28, 2009

Amigos Hold Unity Summit

Egan/News

It appears the Senate amigos are preparing to circle the wagons around Sen. Hiram Monserrate as the committee tasked with deciding his fate wraps up its work.

The fearsome foursome - including Monserrate himself - is scheduled to break bread this afternoon at the Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck (yes, you read that right, the Westchester County suburb where Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. owns a home - but not his primary residence, of course).

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. confirmed the lunch meeting and the fact that all four of the amigos are scheduled to attend. But he was a bit vague on why it had been called.

"We're going to discuss the agenda for next year," he told me during an early-morning telephone interview. "We're going to talk about everything. Hiram? Yes. Our unity. Everything."

This comes as the committee convened by Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson to review of Monserrate's misdemeanor assault conviction and recommend potential additional sanctions is wrapping up its work and planning some sort of resolution before the end of 2009 (which, for the record, is Friday).

It's unclear whether Sampson will approve of letting an expulsion resolution come to the floor - either from the committee itself or from Sen. Brian Foley, who is threatening to take matters into his own hands.

Diaz Sr. insisted to me that he's not worried about Monserrate getting booted from the Senate, even as his opponents claim there are sufficient votes in the chamber between the Democrat and Republican conferences to do so.

"They've got to be careful what they wish for, that's all I have to say," the Bronx senator said. "I wish Sen. Foley luck...Let's see who will be out of the Senate next year."

Foley is one of the GOP's top targets in the rapidly escalating 2010 battle for control of the chamber.

He already has one declared Republican opponent, Lee Zeldin, who ran an unsuccessful campaign to oust Rep. Tim Bishop last fall.

But he also has some strong allies. The LGBT community has pledged to protect Foley in gratitude for his constroversial "yes" vote on marriage.

Diaz Sr. didn't mention marriage while chatting with me this morning, but he did note that there's a tough new DWI law - Leandra's Law - that makes it a felony to drive drunk with a child in the car.

There have been a number of drunk-driving arrests in Albany in recent years, although none that would have triggered Leandra's Law.

The most notable resulted in a guilty plea from Monserrate's predecessor, former Sen. John Sabini, who bowed out of the 2008 primary and cleared the way for then-Councilman Monserrate after losing the support of the Queens Democratic Party.

I think Diaz Sr.'s oblique Leandra's Law reference was intended to make the "slippery slope" point - in other words: If senators start booting their colleagues after the courts have already rendered judgment in a manner that lets them keep their seats, where will the line be drawn?

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