It was an odd sight yesterday as the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Tom Prendergast, ambled down to Washington to ask Congress to step in and break a contract impasse with the Long Island Rail Road unions.
That's right, Washington – the place where solutions go to die and lawmakers can't even agree to fund highway repairs.
Prendergast was doing the bidding of his boss, Governor Cuomo, who told reporters on Monday that federal lawmakers should solve the labor problem that could erupt into a strike later this month.
"Right now, it seems Congress is pivotal to what happens here,'' Cuomo said. "This is federal law and if the union goes on strike, it goes to Congress, and the Congress basically resolves the strike. They can dictate what the settlement is. "
But with the House trying to keep the Tea Party tail from wagging the rest of its dog, Congress isn't really able to dictate anything.
In Washington, New York Senator Charles Schumer tried to give the governor a reality check.
"I don't know where all of this stuff came about that someone should go to Congress," Schumer told our Michael Scotto. "You didn't need to be a Ph.D in political science to know that the House of Representatives would never help New York out of a strike situation."
Cuomo reversed himself yesterday by issuing a statement that blamed the unions for Prendergast's feckless field trip to the nation's capital, saying: "The unions' false belief that Congress would step in to mandate a settlement was a major impediment to any real progress."
It all amounts to political gamesmanship that the governor hopes to win by swooping in before a July 20 strike deadline and announcing a deal – much like he did in May when he helped prevent a subway and bus strike and the Daily News' Pete Donohue dubbed him the "White Knight from Mount Kisco."
With Election Day just four months away, it seems highly unlikely that Long Island commuters will be scrambling to find an alternate way to work later this month. Cuomo is holding their road map – which included a weird detour through Washington.
I got a a very thoughtful e-mail from reader Ryan Whalen about my column yesterday that noted how rare it is for incumbent mayors to get kicked out of office by the voters. I originally wrote that only two sitting mayors have been defeated at the polls since 1953, the number is actually three (Abe Beame, David Dinkins and Ed Koch).
But my original point stands – it's rare for a New York City mayor to serve his first full four-year term and then lose; in fact, it's only happened to Beame and Dinkins since John Purroy Mitchel was voted out of office in 1917. Koch lost after three terms while John O'Brien and Vincent R. Impellitteri got into office through special elections after mayors resigned. While he could live with Koch's historical legacy, Bill de Blasio certainly doesn't want to follow in the footsteps of Beame or Dinkins when it comes to his political fate.