coup

New York Supreme Court Judge Thomas McNamara, left, meets with attorneys David Lewis, representing the state Senate Republican Conference, center, and Andrew Celli, representing the Senate Democratic Conference, right, in State Supreme Court in Albany, N.Y. on Tuesday, June 16, 2009. The judge delayed action on the Senate's power struggle and ordered Democrats and Republicans to return to court in the afternoon. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)

ALBANY -- As an attempt to solve the leadership crisis that has stalled New York's Senate failed in the courts, Gov. David Paterson offered Tuesday to step in to do his old job as lieutenant governor, running the chamber and helping Republicans and Democrats pass necessary legislation.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara early Tuesday afternoon dismissed the case brought by Democrats after a Republican-led coalition ousted them from power on June 8. McNamara said it's improper for the court to get involved in a legislative tussle and he recommended the Senate resolve the question of who's in charge.

Senate Democrats said they would appeal but also said they were open to talking about the temporary fix to get through the last two weeks of the legislative session.

Republicans, who joined with two dissident Democrats to seize control last week, declined Paterson's offer but agreed to reconsider after the Tuesday afternoon court appearance, Paterson said. After McNamara's ruling, Republican leadership told The Associated Press they wouldn't comment until after any appeals are complete.

Paterson, a Democrat, also said he would let any other independent official to run the session to handle noncontroversial but pressing issues including the authorization of taxes for New York City and local governments.

"This would be a tremendous gesture on both sides," Paterson told The Associated Press. "This is an offer made by the governor that I think will objectively solve the problem."

Paterson said both sides would agree that if they accept this temporary situation, the measure won't be used in any ongoing court cases. Republicans, however, say their parliamentary coup on June 8 was legal and their coalition now runs the chamber, even though one of its dissident members, Sen. Hiram Monserrate, has defected back to the Democrats, creating a 31-31 deadlock.

The state constitution calls for the lieutenant governor to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate but New York hasn't had a second-in-command since March 2008 when Paterson became governor following Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation amid a prostitution scandal.

"Whoever wins this case, the public is going to lose," Paterson said. "Because the loser is going to appeal. Then there will be a stay and more sand is dripping through the hour glass and the people's business is not getting done."

"Then as far as I'm concerned they can fight all summer about who in control of the Senate and I will respect the winner," he said.

McNamara had already postponed his decision for three hours and ordered Democrats and Republicans to negotiate but an hour of closed-door discussions Tuesday morning failed to result in an agreement.

Meanwhile, the coalition of Republicans and their one remaining Democratic dissident, Sen. Pedro Espada, plans to hold session Tuesday afternoon, even without the 32 members needed for a quorum.