A growing number of Senate Democrats are calling for New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to resign from Congress after he was federally indicted in a corruption scheme.
“While he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, serving in public office is a privilege that demands a higher standard of conduct,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in a Tuesday statement calling for his resignation.
Casey joins a growing chorus of Democrats running for reelection in 2024 in competitive races to call for Menendez to leave the Senate. They include: Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Casey’s fellow Pennsylvania senator, John Fetterman, was the first to call for Menendez to go following his indictment last week. So far, no Republican senator has called for his resignation.
Menendez and his wife Nadine were indicted last week in a federal court in New York on three charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion. The indictment alleges that Menendez and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. In return, Menendez allegedly used his position as a U.S. senator to help the businessmen by providing sensitive U.S. government information taking actions to aid the Egyptian government.
Senators return to Washington today, where they are likely to face a barrage of questions about Menendez’s political future.
Menendez is also facing tremendous pressure at home in New Jersey to step aside. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy quickly called for his resignation, as have members of the House delegation including Rep. Andy Kim, who said he will challenge Menendez in the June 2024 Democratic primary if he does not leave Congress before then.
The mounting calls put pressure on party leadership, including President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to take a position. So far, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has called it a “serious matter” but the president has not personally weighed in on resignation calls. In a statement last week, Schumer said Menendez “has a right to due process and a fair trial” and supported his decision to relinquish his post as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
For his part, Menendez has aggressively defended himself against what he has characterized as a politically motivated and racist prosecution against the first Latino senator to represent New Jersey in the Senate. In a press conference last week, Menendez said he would not resign but he did not commit to running for reelection. This is the second time the New Jersey Democrat has been indicted, but a separate 2015 corruption case ended in a mistrial in 2017 and the government opted not to retry him. At the time, then-Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid stood by Menendez.