WASHINGTON — The indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez on corruption charges couldn't have come at a worse time for lawmakers hoping to short-circuit President Obama's negotiations with Iran as they work to maintain their bipartisan coalition.
Menendez, a Democrat, has been a vocal critic of Obama's talks with Iran over that country's nuclear program, and he is a lead co-sponsor on a Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker's bill requiring the White House to submit any deal to Congress for approval.
Corker appears close to having enough votes to pass the bill (and potentially override a likely veto by Obama), in part thanks to the work of Menendez.
In a statement Wednesday evening, Corker thanked Menendez for his work.
"While I have no knowledge of the judicial matters at hand, I appreciate his bipartisan work on foreign relations issues and expect he will continue to play a constructive role," Corker said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
With the talks in the homestretch and a deal possibly being announced at any moment, Corker and other opponents will need all the help they can get to maintain their bipartisan coalition in the face of an expected full court press from Obama and his allies to protect any potential agreement.
But how much of a constructive role Menendez will be able to play on foreign affairs — or virtually any other issue — remains to be seen, assuming he does not resign his seat. Menendez will step down this week as ranking member on the committee as a result of the indictment.
Given the level of detail on the alleged corruption and wide-ranging nature of the indictment, he could find himself a persona non grata within Democratic circles — especially given the number of other Democrats (three current or former senators are described as being engaged by Menendez on various issues in the indictment). And Menendez will also be spending significant amounts of time and energy mounting his legal defense against the indictment.
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.