Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey will temporarily step down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after he was indicted by federal prosecutors in New York on Friday, according to a statement issued by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.
Menendez, the three-term senior senator from New Jersey, was indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on federal corruption charges, being alleged to have accepted bribes in cash, gold bullion and a luxury car in exchange for shaping U.S. foreign policy towards Egypt and interfering in investigations on behalf of his affiliates. Schumer announced that Menendez’s decision to step down from his role as chairman was temporary, according to the announcement.
“Senator Menendez has rightly decided to step down temporarily from his position as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter has been resolved,” wrote Schumer in his statement. “Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has a right to due process and a fair trial.”
Menendez’s decision means that he will no longer serve as the Senate’s leading member on foreign policy, which is widely regarded as a powerful and prestigious position. Past holders include Whig statesman Henry Clay, Republican Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, former Secretary of State John Kerry and President Joe Biden, who served in the role three times during his 36-year Senate career.
Menendez previously chaired the committee from 2013 to 2015 and was its ranking member from 2018 to 2021. It was unclear whether he would remain a member of the committee and who would assume the chairmanship of the committee in Menendez’s stead, though the position would go to another Democratic Senator, with retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland being the senior-most Democrat apart from Menendez.
The charges against Menendez carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Menendez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Arjun Singh on September 22, 2023