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 Senate Foreign Relations Committee leadership post. The New Jersey Democrat, who is expected to face federal corruption charges, denies any wrongdoing. There already is talk on Capitol Hill about whether Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will remove Menendez from his ranking-member post. If he is charged, and Reid does just that, a shortlist is emerging to replace him.
Next in Line: Boxer
Outlook: Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is an active and vocal member of the committee. She frequently spars with Republicans on foreign policy and national security issues and is no wilting flower when questioning witnesses.
But she already is ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and vice chairwoman of the Ethics Committee. Would she give up one? Also, she recently announced her retirement.
“That means she might not want to take this on,” said Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress. “The leadership might say, ‘We need to think of the next generation here. If we take the Senate back in 2016, we need someone who can move up.’ ”
The Favorite: Cardin
Outlook: Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., is not afraid to break with the Obama administration. Just last week, he stated that it “needs to do more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves,” adding they “need defensive support so they can defend themselves as far as weapons are concerned.” Korb said Cardin is “very good” on foreign policy issues and would likely make a strong ranking member.
He already is ranking member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “The question there is whether he would give that up,” Korb said. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a Foreign Relations member last session, last week called Cardin “an excellent guy” who would be a good pick.
Read More:Issue Tracker: Replacing Menendez.