© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) walks through the Senate subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photograph
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The charges in opposition to Democratic Senator Bob Menendez will cost President Joe Biden belief to be one of his handiest allies in Congress as he rallies enhance for wait on to Ukraine and works to reclaim U.S. management on global considerations from climate switch to China.
U.S. prosecutors on Friday charged Menendez and his important other with three felony conspiracy counts of bribery, fraud and extortion over their relationship with businessmen in his dwelling bid of Contemporary Jersey.
Menendez said he determined to step down swiftly as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relatives Committee. He has denied wrongdoing and said he plans to continue to work for the of us of Contemporary Jersey no matter what he described as a “smear campaign.”
The senator will not be any stranger to controversy.
He stepped apart as the rating Democrat on the foreign family individuals committee in 2015 after he became indicted over what prosecutors said became a draw to interchange political favors for luxurious vacations and campaign donations. He became reinstated as the panel’s high Democrat in early 2018 after the Justice Department dropped its case.
Friday’s indictment came as the Biden administration engages in an ambitious effort to rebuild U.S. alliances to counter a extra aggressive China and contend with political enhance for Ukraine’s war in opposition to Russian forces, which has cost the USA extra than $100 billion.
Menendez has been a truly major accomplice for Biden on these and other foreign policy priorities. He has immediate the confirmations of dozens of Biden’s appointees through the Senate, and forcefully helped contrivance Biden’s case for further humanitarian, economic and army assistance for Ukraine.
“Be pleased him or despise him, Menendez has performed an incredibly influential purpose in the case of shaping U.S. foreign policy,” said Daniel Vajdich, a Republican aged Foreign Relatives Committee staffer.
Vajdich notorious that Menendez’s departure provides to uncertainty on Capitol Hill about foreign policy, given intelligent divisions amongst Republicans, who withhold an eye on the House of Representatives, on considerations love wait on to Ukraine.
Menendez is anticipated to be succeeded as chairman by Senator Ben Cardin, who stepped in as the panel’s high Democrat in 2015, when Menendez became indicted on charges that delight in been later dropped.
At a White House press briefing, spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the charges.
UKRAINE AID IN QUESTION
Congress is now brooding about Biden’s question from July for $24 billion extra on high of $113 billion already sent to Kyiv, an charm that faces resistance from many exhausting-just Republicans as lawmakers skedaddle to fund the authorities sooner than a Sept. 30 time limit.
The committee chair is the pinnacle foreign policy spot in Congress.
As chairman, Menendez writes rules, sets the agenda for committee hearings, oversees the president’s nominations for a massive series of nationwide safety positions arena to Senate confirmation and experiences most global weapons gross sales.
Suzanne Wrasse, a spokesperson for Senator Jim Risch, the committee’s high Republican, said Risch hoped for steering from Democratic management soon on next steps.
Menendez has been an ally to Biden on Ukraine in opposition to what he has known as Russia’s “brutal assault.” And he has worked with the administration and Senate leaders on China, at the side of a important invoice to raise the U.S. semiconductor switch that became rules final Twelve months.
He has now not repeatedly viewed gape-to-gape with Democratic presidents. Menendez antagonistic then-President Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear contend with Iran and any talk about of reviving the settlement.
Below Senate Democratic Conference options, any member charged with a felony must stop his or her committee management spot.
Menendez is now not required to resign from the Senate and would possibly per chance per chance return to his committee publish if the charges are dropped or reduced to lower than a felony.