Wednesday, February 18, 2009

AM Alert - REPUBLICAN SENATORS FIRE THEIR LEADER: Hollingsworth in, Cogdill out

The Sacramento Bee CapitolAlert

Senate Republicans have a new leader today after the caucus ousted Sen. Dave Cogdill and replaced him with Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth shortly after midnight.

Despite speculation that Senate Republicans may ask to reopen budget talks, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg insisted the change has absolutely no effect on his strategy to break the budget deadlock this week.

"We're going to maintain our focus towards solving the problem of getting one vote regardless of who the leader is," Steinberg said after his house took a recess around 1 a.m. "Leadership doesn't change the fact that there is no other idea put forward that would take $41 billion out of a budget deficit. And so, for me, it doesn't change anything."

After the Senate failed to approve the contentious tax hike bill, Steinberg made good on his threat to keep his members locked in for the night. He said he plans to resume talks later Wednesday with Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, and Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, to see if either one will back the budget package.

"I would describe it as a bit of a discouraging day," Steinberg said of Tuesday. "Despite a lot of effort, and a lot of work today by our office, the governor's office, they're not there. But they have to be there eventually."

Schwarzenegger flew home to Brentwood around 9 p.m., a sign that the budget deal remained elusive Tuesday. His spokesman, Aaron McLear, said the governor plans to continue speaking to Cox and Maldonado on Wednesday.

Hollingsworth, an ardent tax opponent, made it clear that he continues to oppose the budget. When asked whether he wants to reopen the "Big 5" negotiations, he said he'd take a wait-and-see approach.

"I think the majority of my caucus doesn't want to see a tax increase passed in this particular package," Hollingsworth said. "But we'll see what happens in the next few minutes, the next few hours, the next few days."

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