Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) signaled again on Thursday that he does not plan to resign from the U.S. Senate, even as a majority of Senate Democrats have now called on him to step aside following a federal indictment last week.
Menendez has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
After a closed-door meeting with fellow Senate Democrats, Menendez said that he plans to continue with his work.
“I will continue to cast votes on behalf of the people in New Jersey as I have for 18 years, and I’m sure when they need those votes, they’ll be looking forward for me to cast those votes,” said Menendez, who is up for reelection next year.
During the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) let Menendez have the floor, and there were no questions asked by other senators in the room, according to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.).
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday, Schumer said Menendez had fallen far short of the ethical standards expected of senators and that he was “deeply disappointed” and “disturbed” when he read Menendez’s indictment on federal bribery charges. But Schumer stopped short of urging Menendez to resign, as have several of the caucus’s other leaders.
“Tomorrow, he will address the Democratic caucus, and we’ll see what happens after that,” Schumer said Wednesday.
Schumer did not address reporters immediately after Thursday’s meeting.
Schumer had previously issued a statement saying Menendez “has a right to due process and a fair trial.” He had also lauded Menendez’s decision to temporarily step down from his position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as the Senate Democratic Caucus’s rules require.
Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges on Wednesday. They are accused of participating in a scheme to abuse his powerful position, enrich themselves and secretly aid the Egyptian government.
Menendez was ordered released on a $100,000 bond; his wife was ordered released on a $250,000 bond. The senator was ordered to give up his personal passport but allowed to keep a separate passport used for official Senate travel.
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), the first Democratic senator to call for Menendez to step down, declined to attend Thursday’s closed-door meeting with Menendez and Senate Democrats.
“I’m not interested in some kind of explanation on why he has gold bars in his mattress or anything like that,” Fetterman said after the Democrats’ meeting, referring to allegations made in the indictment. “But from what I understand … he’s defiant. And again, that’s continuing [his] level of arrogance that is astonishing.”
Fetterman said he would not only support a Democratic challenger to Menendez in 2024, he also would consider backing an effort to expel the New Jersey senator from the chamber.
“Now that it’s confirmed that he’s not going to go the honorable way, I would like to pursue whatever avenues are available,” he said.
Eli Tan, Shayna Jacobs and Mark Berman contributed to this report.