Matthew Yglesias and Nate Silver have been arguing whether or not Gov. Andrew Cuomo's successful push for a marriage-equality bill in New York is the result of structural or personal factors, and whether or not Cuomo has shown leadership that President Barack Obama hasn't.
I'd say I largely agree with both of them. Obama faces significant procedural obstacles in a 60-vote filibuster and a unified obstructionist Republican opposition, but he's also been an excessively cautious president who has taken few risks in pushing progressive priorities outside of health-care reform.
John Aravosis goes further, however, and argues that Cuomo faced more daunting procedural obstacles than Obama:
In the NY state Senate they have a super filibuster. It's called the Republican Majority Leader. He has absolute discretion about what legislation he wants to bring up for a vote. If he didn't want to bring up the same-sex marriage bill, he didn't have to - regardless of how many votes we had. But he did permit the legislation to come up because of the masterful job Cuomo, and the groups, did in lobbying the Republicans - even though the GOP caucus was 28-4 against the bill's passage.
To call this a "super filibuster" isn't quite right. What this means is that instead of appeasing five to 10 skittish Democratic centrists, Cuomo had a single choke point to navigate. Precisely because that veto authority was centralized in one person, a revolt from the caucus would have less impact. If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ever wanted his caucus not to filibuster, he'd have to face the prospect of them doing so anyway and making him look like he has no control over his caucus. The New York Senate rules gave Majority Leader Dean Skelos more leeway to compromise, not less. The New York state Senate isn't a majoritarian utopia -- in fact it hinges a great deal on the person in charge.
Now if we were talking about former Republican Leader Joe Bruno, this might have been a different story altogether, one with a decidedly less happy ending. But Dean Skelos is no Joe Bruno, and he's certainly no Mitch McConnell. Skelos had promised New York's LGBT community a vote on marriage prior to the 2010 midterms and had openly foresworn obstruction, saying, "The days of just bottling up things, and using these as excuses not to have votes — as far as I’m concerned as leader, it’s over with."
It's true that as things came down to the wire, there was some worry Skelos wouldn't keep his promise. But precisely because he didn't have to face the prospect of his caucus filibustering anyway, he was in a stronger position to hold a vote, and in a weaker political position to deny one, given his campaign promise.
I don't mean to suggest that what Cuomo did was easy -- Gov. David Paterson couldn't do it even with a Democratic Senate -- or that the president has shown a deficit of leadership and a failure of imagination when it comes to many progressive issues, marriage equality included. But the idea that Cuomo faced more difficult procedural obstacles to a vote on marriage equality doesn't hold water.
You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)