Menendez, who has chaired the Foreign Relations Committee since 2021, must resign, per Senate Democrats’ statutes. They say that “any member holding a position of leadership within the Conference who is charged with a crime will cease to exercise the powers and duties of his or her leadership position.”
The bylaws add that if “the charges are subsequently dismissed or reduced to less than a felony,” that member may resume leadership responsibilities. However, a felony conviction means the member will be permanently removed from leadership positions.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is one of the most important committees in Washington, but it has taken on a leading role amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic. Menendez also served in that capacity in 2013 and 2014 before Republicans took control of the chamber for the next six years.
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), who plans to retire after this current term, is set to replace him as the committee’s top Democrat. Cardin took over from Menendez in 2015 as a ranking member when Menendez initially stepped down – when he was first indicted. Menendez resumed his role as a prominent member of the minority in 2018, a year after his trial ended before a hung jury.
On the Hill, Menendez’s indictment poses a potential dilemma for Democrats who have ardently defended him over the years — and who have used indictments against other politicians as a sign of unfitness to exercise their functions. His New Jersey colleague, Sen. Cory Booker (NJ), has been a particular defender of Menendez, having been mentored by the senior senator before joining him as a colleague in the Senate.
Booker’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his reaction to the indictment Friday morning.
To add even more intrigue to the Capitol, Menendez’s son, Rob Menendez, joined the House last year. He defended his father against “countless detractors.”
“I have unwavering confidence in my father and his dedication to the people of New Jersey for whom he fought tirelessly during his long career as a public servant,” he said in a statement. “I firmly believe in his integrity and values and look forward to seeing him rise above this distraction and continue to fight for our state in the U.S. Senate.”
The Senate is out of town until Tuesday, when Menendez and his colleagues are sure to be peppered with questions about the New Jersey senator’s future. The senator Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin Democrat), who was at the Capitol for a pro forma session Friday, told reporters that the indictment outlines “serious accusations” but that she is still waiting to learn more.
Asked if she planned to talk to Menendez or his colleagues about the indictment, Baldwin said, “I know we’re going to hear more, even today, I think.” »