Despite facing federal bribery and corruption charges, Senate Democrats are willing to work with Sen. Robert Menendez, even though most of them have called for his resignation. Similar to how New York Rep. George Santos has become a political pariah for House Republicans, Mr. Menendez’s refusal to step down has made him the Senate version of Santos. Both men have pleaded not guilty and are confident in their innocence, much to the dismay of their fellow party members.
However, despite the controversy surrounding Menendez and Santos, their votes are crucial for their respective parties’ slim majorities. With just a two-seat majority, Senate Democrats cannot afford to lose any votes, and House Republicans similarly rely on Santos to maintain their five-seat majority. Although some Democrats have called for Menendez’s resignation, they recognize the need to continue working with him and whoever represents New Jersey in the Senate.
For vulnerable Democrats like Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, who is up for reelection next year, it is a delicate situation. Brown believes Menendez should step down but acknowledges that he will continue serving on his committee. The focus now is finding ways to accomplish necessary tasks despite the controversy surrounding Menendez.
Last week, Menendez failed to convince his fellow Democrats behind closed doors to drop their resignation calls. He has stepped down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but still has access to sensitive and classified information. While he remains adamant that he will not resign, his plans for seeking reelection next year remain uncertain.
The situation is similar for House Republicans dealing with Santos, who faces charges of fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and false statements. Despite the primary challenges both men are facing, Senate Democrats have little choice but to work with Menendez as Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman is the only member calling for his expulsion.
Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, acknowledges that the optics are not good for Menendez, but he is committed to working with everyone equally. Ultimately, the fate of Menendez’s future in the Senate lies in the hands of the people of New Jersey, and until then, Senate Democrats will have to find a way to make the best of a challenging situation.