On Monday, July 1, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) announced that the Senate Democratic Conference was adding a new member: Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn).
Sen. Felder has been a member of the State Senate since 2013. While he is an enrolled Democrat, he caucused with Senate Republicans during the first six years of his Senate tenure. In so doing, Sen. Felder helped the Republicans retain a narrow majority in the Senate. In 2013, Sen. Felder cast a key pro-life procedural vote that helped block abortion expansion legislation from becoming law; the following year, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms honored him with our Courage Award at Legislative Day.
Following the 2018 elections, the Democratic Party took a decisive majority in the State Senate. Sen. Felder made it known that he would be interested in rejoining the Senate Democratic Conference; however, Senate Democrats—who had been displeased with Sen. Felder’s alliance with Republicans—declined to allow him to join their ranks at that time. Sen. Felder spent the 2019 legislative session on his own, as he did not caucus with either party.
According to City & State New York, “Sen. Simcha Felder has voted against some of New York Democrats’ most cherished legislative priorities in recent months, including the Reproductive Health Act, GENDA and a landmark climate change bill. However, his key votes on other issues, like driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, have helped pave the way for him to become a Democrat in practice, as well as in theory, for the first time…”
The addition of Sen. Felder gives the Senate Democratic Conference 40 seats in the 63-seat chamber. If Senate Democrats were to control 42 seats, they would enjoy a two-thirds majority that would enable them to override gubernatorial vetoes without help from Republicans.