On Friday, Sen. Bob Menendez spoke at a rally, in Newark against the latest GOP attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In a gaggle after the rally he announced that he would, in fact, leave his ongoing corruption trial to go to Washington D.C. next week to cast his vote against the Graham-Cassidy bill, despite the advice of his attorneys to remain in the courtroom.
“Whenever that vote takes place, I will be on the Senate floor,” Menendez said to reporters after the news conference. “My lawyers have told me that I should be in court every day, and I have been. I told them that I intended to cast this vote whenever it came. They said they understand … There are millions of Americans who will be affected and this is a question of a simple majority vote, meaning that whatever the quorum that’s present, it’s a majority of that quorum. So if I was not there it would reduce the quorum, it would reduce the number of votes they would have to receive. So I understand the risk, especially since the jury will not be told why I’m there, but I’m not about to put millions of people at risk.”
The senator’s presence is important for Democrats because the voting numbers are close and they need every vote that they can get to stop the bill from passing. Republicans have until the end of the month to pass Graham-Cassidy with just 51 votes under the procedure known as reconciliation. With only 46 Democratic senators, and two independent senators who oppose the bill, Menendez’s absence during this crucial vote would give the Democrats even less of a chance of voting down the bill.
He also addressed the devastation in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, saying the United States needs to do everything it can for the three and a half million Americans that call the island home.
“I am worried for the [emergency federal funding] process for Puerto Rico because it doesn’t have a U.S. senator. I’ve always been their voice and I’m going to do everything I can. I know several of my colleagues from other states that have large Puerto Rican populations, Puerto Rican-Americans that have family there, will speak up as well. That they don’t get left out in the process,” Menendez said. “The reality for the moment is these are Americans who need our assistance, they need our help. That’s what this country is all about. That’s why we need to do it.”