Politics & Government

California budget standoff continues; GOP leader dropped

Senate Republicans ousted their leader early this morning as other lawmakers continued searching for one more GOP vote in the upper house to break the state's budget deadlock.

In a contentious meeting that lasted through the midnight hour, Senate Republicans removed Sen. Dave Cogdill as leader and replaced him with Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, who opposes the budget deal Cogdill negotiated for his caucus because it contains new taxes.

The move sparked confusion in the upper house, but Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg insisted it would not change the budget dynamic. He said Cogdill, R-Modesto, and Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, remain committed to the pending budget package of cuts, taxes and borrowing.

Steinberg, along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will continue seeking one more GOP vote later today from Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, or Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria.

"We're going to maintain our focus towards solving the problem of getting one vote regardless of who the leader is," Steinberg said. "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."

The Senate's first vote on a bill to raise various taxes for at least two years remained in limbo with 23 senators voting in favor, 12 against and four not voting. The tax vote took place about 1 a.m. today, shortly after Senate Republicans ousted Cogdill.

Three Republicans – Ashburn, Cogdill and Cox – and one Democrat, Sen. Lou Correa, abstained. Steinberg, however, said he believed Ashburn, Cogdill and Correa would support the tax bill once legislative leaders secured a final Republican vote. Steinberg kept the Senate in lockdown through the night, prohibiting any member from leaving the Capitol in an attempt to squeeze out one more vote.

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