Menendez steps down as Senate Foreign Relations chairman after indictment

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) will step down from his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee following an indictment that was unsealed on Friday, The Hill reports.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the move Friday afternoon.

Under Democratic Conference rules, a member in a leadership position or with a chair must resign if charged with a felony, but can be reinstated if the charges are cleared or dropped to a lesser charge.

“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,” Schumer said in the statement.

“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.” 

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), as the most senior Democrat on the panel, is likely to move into the chairmanship role. Cardin announced in May that he will retire at the end of his term in 2025 and it’s possible that the third-ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), could also be considered for the chair.

The committee is unlikely to see any major hiccups in operations if Menendez is allowed to retain his seat on the committee while not serving as chair.

Menendez faces three counts, including conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, a charge for public officials who take bribes in return for official acts, with allegations of bribery linked to his work on the committee. He was charged alongside his wife, Nadine Menendez, and three other businesspeople.

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