With a potential federal indictment hovering over him, one of the questions swirling around Sen. Bob Menendez is whether he can continue to be a voice and a power player in Washington. Rutgers Professor Ross Baker is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the U.S. Senate. Baker told NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron that he does not want people to jump to the conclusion that charges have been filed against Menendez.
“He has not been indicted. He’s under investigation, allegedly, and I just want to make sure that people don’t jump to that conclusion that there are charges that are already filed against him,” said Baker. “However, I think clearly for any person in Sen. Menendez’s position, being the ranking minority member of a major Senate committee and senior senator from the state, I think politically, obviously it indicates political damage. So, yeah, I think it’s a major distraction.”
Whether this will hurt Menendez’s influence, Baker said that it might in the sense that people may not want to be associated with Menendez publicly when contemplating introducing a bill with him.
Some have wondered if Menendez would lose his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Baker said that there is a new rule in the Democratic caucus that it is something entirely up to the individual or the individual responding to pressure from colleagues whether or not to step down from a committee position.
Baker said that it is not true that Harry Reid would have the power to make Menendez step down. Baker said that Reid will likely get the consensus of the caucus and that he does not act on his own. According to Baker, Reid would only act and request Menendez to step down if there is widespread concern and fear of political damage if Menendez were to continue.
When asked about the theory that the possible charges are some type of retribution from the Obama administration toward Menendez, Baker said, “I don’t buy it. I think the Obama administration has its hands full with so many things. I think that sailing out Sen. Menendez for punishment is not on their radar screen at all.”