Felder ‘Poo-Poos’ Party Politics In Favor Of Independent Policy Making

While progressive Democrats and Senate mainstream Democrats continue to bang heads with the eight-member breakaway Independent Democratic Conference over who the real Democrats are and which wing bends more to the left, there is one thing they all agree on:  Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park, Flatbush, Midwood) is the political bogeyman.

But to Felder, a registered Democrat who also carried the Republican and Conservative Party lines on the ballot in his re-election last year, the idea of being loyal to political parties above judging each piece of legislation on its own merits is an antiquated political concept whose time has come and gone.

Sen. Simcha Felder

“I’m only loyal to God, my wife and my constituents,” said Felder, an Orthodox Jew, who has caucused with the Senate Republicans ever since he was first elected to the chamber in 2012. “God blessed me with not caring about this [party politics] stuff. I’m issues driven, not politics driven. And I see this trend growing more than ever in this country. I don’t have to decide on whether or not I will join the Democratic Conference right now. I never claimed to be a loyal party person.”

But like it or not, Felder’s ambivalence towards party politics is a major issue now that including him the Democrats hold a slim 32-31 majority in the senate. This would also mean Democratic control of a strong New York City-driven progressive agenda even at the expense of Long Island, suburban and upstate Democrats who will surely face stiff Republican opposition in their next election if such an agenda came to pass.

It is this progressive agenda that IDC Chair Jeff Klein pushed this week in challenging all senate Democrats to sign (including Felder) to counter pressure from the Working Families Party-led progressive wing of the party to bring the IDC into the fold.

IDC Chair Jeff Klein

The pledge included backing legislation guaranteeing single payer health care coverage for all New Yorkers or Universal Healthcare (S.4840); the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (S.3668); the DREAM Act, which will open the doors of higher education to every New York child (S.471A); the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act; Codification of Roe v. Wade with the Reproductive Health Act (5.2796); Protection of public funds for Title X family planning and preventive health care services; and Campaign Finance Reform with public financing of all state-level elections.

Interestingly, this pledge included no bread-and-butter issues that concern Long Island, suburban and upstate Democrat lawmakers such as addressing the horrible commuter transportation out of Penn Station and Grand Central Station, skyrocketing property taxes and spurring economic development in many blighted towns and cities in upstate New York.

Felder took this letter personally, causing him to fire off a letter back to Klein urging the IDC to “unconditionally and publicly rejoin the Democrats.” and asking,“Who are you to decide what the legislative priorities are for loyal Democrats across New York State?”

Felder said he wrote the letter because he felt Klein was scapegoating him to take the heat off of the IDC for not rejoining the fold, which would make it a 31-31 deadlocked chamber.

“Jeff Klein is telling reporters that Simcha Felder is killing it [a Democratic majority] and that’s a lie. That if Simcha Felder would go back, we [IDC] would go back. He sent out that letter in essence to portray them {IDC] as regular Democrats and that all 32 members have to join the pledge,” said Felder.

“I’m saying I don’t feel a compulsion to be with Democrats or Republicans, but Jeff Klein make like he’s holy and I’m not that one. This whole thing is not a big deal to me. It’s two extremes and if they want to be one, there should be a co-leadership. Rabid extremists in each party is controlling things and having undue influence in their party, and I think Jeff Klein has a hard time saying that.”

Meanwhile, the progressive-leaning Village Voice wrote today how Felder is the one lawmaker keeping Universal Healthcare (single payer health care coverage for all New Yorkers) from passing.

Felder said he doesn’t respond to pending legislation until he sees it before the Senate Healthcare Committee on which he sits. He did direct KCP to an Empire Center report that questioned many of the costs and ramifications of the legislation.

Felder also agreed with the assessment that many state Democratic lawmakers who voted for the single payer healthcare act did so without really reading and understanding the bill, much like the House Republicans didn’t do in recently passing legislation striking down former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, The Affordable Healthcare Act.

Felder has taught business and accounting at the college level. He also served as deputy comptroller for budget and accounting under former New York City Comptroller John Liu, who ironically enjoyed the reputation of being more progressive than Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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