WASHINGTON — Efforts to increase pressure on Iran and formally authorize the war against the Islamic State group could be set back if Sen. Bob Menendez is forced out of his committee leadership post.
The New Jersey Democrat is expected to face federal criminal charges for allegedly using his office to illegally help a friend’s business interests. That friend also is a major political donor. Menendez denies any wrongdoing.
When the Senate gavels back into session Monday afternoon, pressure is expected to ramp up on the Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to remove Menendez as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Typically, when these kinds of charges are brought, people step aside from their leadership positions,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “But that will be up to the Democratic leader, Sen. Reid, to make that call.”
The investigation into Menendez’s relationship with Florida eye surgeon Salomon Melgen has been ongoing for several years. In January 2013, Politico reported that Reid, when asked about the scandal, called Menendez “my friend.”
“He’s an outstanding senator,” Reid said then. “Any questions in this regard direct to him. I don’t know anything about it.”
The Democratic leader has yet to comment publicly on how he would respond once Menendez is charged by the US Justice Department.
Read More:Menendez Charges Could Leave Iran, AUMF Void.