"Three men in a room” in Albany politics refers to the Governor, the Senate Majority Leader and the Assembly Speaker. No one else in New York state government matters except these three men in a room, who decide all state laws. Other Albany legislators are lucky if they are able to read the bills before they’re voted on (and usually approved without debate).
The three positions in New York State politics have all been held by men. The term “three men in a room” was used by at least 1994; the three men were usually Governor George Pataki (Republican), Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (Republican from upstate Rensselaer) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (Democrat from New York City).
In 2006, a book by former State Senator Seymour Lachman was titled: Three men in a room: the inside story of power and betrayal in an American statehouse.
4 December 1994, Syracuse (NY) Herald American, “Legislature isn’t sinister, look beyond the surface” by Jeff Stonecash, pg. C1, col. 1:
Budgets and policy bills are negotiated by “three men in a room” who are not challenged by the members dependent on leadership resources. Reform is clearly needed.
New York (NY) Daily News
HARDLY WORTH THE WAIT
Wednesday, June 7th 1995, 2:34AM
BARRING ANY MORE GLITCHES, today will be the day the state finally has a budget in place 68 days late and one day short of the all-time record. That pretty much makes New York No. 1 for all the wrong reasons.
Coming after an election in which the voters clearly demanded change, Albany rolled on like ol’ man river. The interminable closed-door wheeling and dealing was typical, with decisions of breathtaking consequences made by three men in a room.
That Gov. Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno emerged with half-a-loaf of progress is clear.
18 June 1995, New York (NY) Times, “Both Sides Claim Success on Budget” by Elsa Brenner, pg. WC1:
“Pataki, for all of his promises, went back to the same old formula, three men in a room hammering out the budget,” Ms. Galef said, referring to the Governor, the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House.
3 January 1998, New York (NY) Times, “On State’s Finances, There Is No Debate,” pg. B4:
But in New York, budget negotiations are derisively known as “three men in a room.” The Senate majority leader, Assembly Speaker and their hand-picked staffs do all of the haggling with the Governor, all in private. Legislative committees sit on the sidelines, receiving much of their information from newspaper articles.
24 March 1998, New York (NY) Times, “Budget Groundwork Finishes Early in Albany” by Richard Perez-Pena, pg. B8:
Mr. Bruno and Mr. SIlver are sensitive to criticism that the Capitol’s three-men-in-a-room style of resolving differences is dysfunctional, as is the Legislature itself.
26 March 1998, New York (NY) Times, “Albany’s Open Budget Talks Make History in Fits and Starts” by Richard Perez-Pena, pg. B1:
The Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Democrat of Manhattan, referred to the oft-derided tradition in which the leaders of the two houses and the Governor meet privately to decide every important question. “I hope that the conference committee approach we initiate today is the beginning of the end of ‘three-men-in-a-room’ budget-making,” he said.
12 January 2001, New York (NY) Times, “To Judge, School Aid Formula Is Easy: ‘3 Men in a Room’” by Amanda Hartocollis, pg. B6:
The final decision, he said, is made by “three men in a room”: the Governor, the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader.
27 June 2002, New York (NY) Times, “Lawmaking: A Monopoly of 3 in Abany” by Joyce Purnick, pg. B1:
Ms. Krueger’s little list underscores an intractable Albany reality: how the governor and two legislative leaders (those celebrated “three men in a room") control their domain.
30 September 2004, New York (NY) Times, “Three Men in a Room With No Exit” by Joyce Purnick, pg. B1:
“There is room for many approaches to change in Albany,” said Blair Horner, legislative director ofthe New York Public Interest Research Group. “But in the world of reality, the only way to change the three-men-in-a-room scenario is with the three men in a room. It requires three of them. And at the moment, they are not interested.”
OCLC WorldCat record
Three men in a room : the inside story of power and betrayal in an American statehouse
by Seymour Lachman
Type: Book : Biography; English
Publisher: New York : New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton & Co., ©2006.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics • (1) Comments • Tuesday, September 09, 2008 • Permalink
In Elections 2012, two of the “three men in the room”, Temporary Senate President Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, are up for re-election. They can easily be defeated. See the unfolding public interest lawsuit, suing Skelos, Silver, and Governor Cuomo for defrauding New York taxpayers by unlawful 27% judicial pay raises. The case is Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc. (CJA) v. Cuomo, et al—and is posted on CJA’s website, www.judgewatch.org, accessible via the top panel “Latest News”.