WASHINGTON — Senior senators believe the Foreign Relations Committee will continue efforts to ramp up pressure on Iran and legally authorize the Islamic State conflict even as the panel’s top Democrat, Robert Menendez, battles federal charges.
The Justice Department on Wednesday formally charged the second-term New Jersey senator with using his office to help a longtime friend and major campaign contributor, Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. Justice officials also say the senator took favors from Melgen. Menendez denies any wrongdoing.
In the last Congress, Menendez was the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and earned the respect of his Republican members amid Washington’s bitterly partisan environment.
After the GOP gained control of the upper chamber, Menendez slid into the ranking member’s role — but remained a driving force behind two bills aimed at the regime in Iran and a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) for the Islamic State fight.
And because the Senate’s rules are crafted to protect the minority party, Menendez’s influence could be required to reach 60 votes on high-stakes foreign policy measures.
National security and foreign policy-minded senators, when asked about the charges before beginning the current two-week recess period, were guarded.
Read More:Senators Vow Progress as Menendez Indicted.