By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
“Politics should never, ever prevent legislators from keeping people safe,” Sen. Tom Kean said.
“Sen. Kean has decided to make things very partisan here. It was his choice,” countered Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Welcome to the newest feud at the Statehouse. Reverberating in all the committee room today after Sweeney pulled every Republican-sponsored bill up for a hearing.
Senate Republican leader Kean says that’s irresponsible. Sweeney says it’s Kean’s fault.
“He wants to play games, he wants to be partisan. We’re in charge. And they’re gonna find out how it works when the other side is in charge and you don’t want to work along,” Sweeney said. “I live on a two-way street, Michael. Tom was born on a one-way one.”
Last week on the Senate floor, Kean refused to provide any Republican votes to allow a Sweeney-backed gun control bill to be considered on an emergency basis.
Sweeney says that’s part of his problem.
“If he cared about public safety, he would’ve passed the bill. He chose not to,” Sweeney said.
“Emergencies are for emergent situations. This bill was changing as it was coming to the floor, so nobody had a chance to read it,” Kean said.
The first sign of a chill in relations came four months ago when Kean identified Sweeney’s district as winnable. He put up Niki Trunk — a candidate with decent credentials — to run against him and put money into her race.
“Every single senator except for Tony Bucco has a general election challenger this fall. There’s only one legislator in the Senate who’s acting irrationally at the prospect of facing the voters in November,” Kean said.
“He can put all the money he has up. I’ve said this before. Put everything he has in the third district. We’ll see who comes out standing at the end of the day,” Sweeney said. “So it’s not about identifying my district or anything like that. It’s more about, he wants this to be a partisan place. This is what he wants and this is what he’s going to get.”
One Republican bill not heard today would close the noxious Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury.
“The fact that the Senate president would impact hundreds of people in Morris County out of a fit of pique is absolutely unacceptable,” Kean said.
“Out of a fit of pique? What about people concerned about gun violence? What about the technicality that he thought wasn’t important enough? Michael, c’mon, it can’t be one-way,” Sweeney said.
Statehouse insiders can’t remember a time when a Senate president blocked all the bills of the other party. Sweeney says the block will last as long as he sees fit.