The betting by every Republican who discussed the matter was that Skelos will take the voluntary route.
Senate Republicans have scheduled an 11 a.m. private meeting for Monday at the Capitol, at which time Skelos is going to be told – unless he voluntarily steps down – that he no longer has the support of the 32-member GOP conference.
As “if Skelos will go” fully morphed on Sunday to “when Skelos will go,” the real fight was centered on who would be his successor. Still up the air Sunday evening was whether the new Republican leader will be Sen. John DeFrancisco of the Syracuse area or Sen. John Flanagan of Suffolk County. Both men were due to meet sometime Sunday to discuss a unity plank in order to restore the conference’s usual ability to work together across geographic, philosophical and age differences.
Under one scenario Republicans floated, DeFrancisco would be the majority leader and Flanagan the deputy majority leader, though with stronger powers than now exist for the number two legislator in the Senate.
But Flanagan forces have been insisting the he has the backing of enough senators to keep the majority leader’s post.
“I don’t think either has it nailed down yet,” a Republican said Sunday.
A number of Republicans interviewed Sunday – all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because of the fragile nature of the discussions – insisted they believe Skelos is not going ahead with a threat made Friday that he would quit his Senate seat in addition to his leadership post unless he retained his majority leader title.
If Skelos quit his seat, which he has held since 1984, that would leave the Republicans with 31 votes in the 63-member chamber while Senate Deputy Leader Tom Libous, a Binghamton-area Republican, has been too sick to travel from his second home in Florida, where he is battling cancer.