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Sens. Loretta Weinberg and Sandra Cunningham at a June 19 Senate Budget Committee meeting. (NIKITA BIRYUKOV PHOTO)

Weinberg: votes for budget not a worry

Senate majority leader expects a ‘couple or three’ defections

By Nikita Biryukov, June 19 2018 11:38 am

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck)  isn’t afraid that defections from members of her caucus could derail legislative leadership’s plans to push their version of the budget through to the governor’s desk later this week.

“I think we’re going to have enough votes to pass the budget,” Weinberg said. “Yea, we’re never usually 100% unified on some of the big issues. We’ll probably have a couple or three [defections], maybe, but … all it takes is 21.”

Though Weinberg did not mention any Democratic Senators she thought might defect to Gov. Phil Murphy’s side in the budget fight, but it’s possible that Murphy drums up the votes to sink the measure in the legislature’s upper chamber.

Still, Murphy has few allies in the Senate, and finding five Democrats willing to defect could pose a challenge, even if he starts the fight with a couple of Senators firmly in his camp.

Former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) is one such senator, and Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) is another that Murphy can likely count on, but from there, it gets murkier.

There are some mostly-unaligned senators like Sens. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence), Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and Ronald Rice (D-Newark) that Murphy could convince to come to his side if he makes the right pitch, but that’s about as deep as his well of support goes, and that’s only in the best of cases.

More likely, he fails to hit the magic number, and with prospects of stopping the bill in the Assembly looking just as grim for the governor, it’s likely that he’ll just have to deal with it once it hits his desk.

But even if he hits the magic number, there’s no guarantee that Murphy wins. It’s more than possible that Sweeney can pull out some support from Republican Senators, and Weinberg appeared to feel the same way.

“I would assume that the Senate President will get the necessary votes to get this passed,” Weinberg said when asked if she thought Sweeney could pull Republican votes if push came to shove.

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