An overwhelming majority of Sen. Bob Menendez’s constituents (84 percent) want the Democratic senator to resign from office if he’s convicted of the federal bribery and corruption charges he’s currently facing in court alongside his deep-pocketed benefactor. Democratic senators, however, aren’t willing to say whether their colleague should go if convicted.
Menendez faces a whopping 14 counts of corruption charges. He allegedly traded luxury vacations, campaign donations, and trips on a cushy private jet from co-defendent Dr. Salomon Melgen for personal favors like securing visas for Melgen’s foreign girlfriends.
Menendez claims he is innocent, and apparently has no plans to resign. He even seems to be contemplating re-election. New Jersey voters are obviously concerned about these corruption charges, but his fellow Democrat senators are refusing to say if Menendez should go.
A couple of weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) gave a non-answer to this question when he said, “Sen. Menendez is issuing a spirited defense,” and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) refused to answer when a reporter asked if a convicted felon should stay in the Senate.
This week, we called every Democratic senator’s office to ask whether Menendez, if convicted, should resign. Not a single one said yes. All but one refused to comment. From Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) office, we learned that the senator is “not going to speculate on anything as the trial is still in progress.” Helpful.
It seems the senators would rather keep a card-carrying Democrat, even a corrupt one, over the alternatives. If Menendez is convicted, there will likely be major public pressure to expulse him, which would need the support of two-thirds of the Senate.
But if Menendez resigns, New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie would likely chose a Republican to replace him. This would affect political makeup of the Senate, which is currently comprised of 46 Democrats, two Independent senators who caucus with the Democratic Party, and 52 Republicans. If the trial drags on and Menendez does not budge, Democrat Phil Murphy may be elected as governor when Christie leaves office. A Democrat successor would likely give Menendez’s seat to a Democrat.