Menendez charges put Iran legislation in doubt

 

Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezLawmakers target horse meat trade Senators, staff get approval to testify in Menendez corruption trial Trump admin not opposed to new war authorization MORE's (N.J.) decision to step aside temporarily as ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee following his indictment on Wednesday could jeopardize Congress's chances of passing Iran legislation. 

Menendez has co-authored legislation with Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOPINION: Congress should censure Trump for his unfit conduct How to fix Fannie and Freddie to give Americans affordable housing No. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight MORE (R-Tenn.) that would allow the Senate to weigh in on any nuclear deal with Iran, and a separate bill that would restore and impose tougher sanctions on Iran if it walks away from talks or violates a deal.

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The Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote April 14 on the bill he co-authored with Corker calling for Senate review of an Iran deal. If Menendez is out of the picture long-term, it could sap Democratic support for legislation that the White House has already threatened to veto. 

Typically, the most senior Democrat on a committee steps in when a member takes leave from a post, but Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states THE MEMO: Trump's base cheers attacks on McConnell It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (D-Nev.) would make the final decision. 

Corker said in a statement to The Hill that he had "no knowledge of the judicial matters at hand" but said he expects Menendez "will continue to play a constructive role" on his panel.

After Menendez, the next most senior Democrat on the committee is Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTime is now to address infrastructure needs Tom Steyer testing waters for Calif. gubernatorial bid Another day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs MORE (D-Calif.), an ally of President Obama who opposes passing any Iran legislation before the final June 30 deadline in the talks. 

She has introduced competing and less stringent legislation with six other Democrats that calls for the White House to regularly report on Iran's compliance with any deal, and sets up an expedited process for Congress to reinstate sanctions if Iran violates an accord.

However, Boxer is not running for reelection in 2016 and is already the ranking Democrat on another panel.

That means the job would likely fall to Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress should think twice on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Don’t let Congress amend the First Amendment Federal anti-BDS legislation – Common sense and constitutional MORE (D-Md.), who was a co-sponsor of the original bill authored by Sens. Mark KirkMark KirkImmigration critics find their champion in Trump Trump's nominee to lead USAID has the right philosophy on international aid McConnell: Senate to try to repeal ObamaCare next week MORE (R-Ill.) and Menendez that would restore and impose tougher sanctions on Iran.

Cardin also signed a letter to the president saying he would wait until after the end of March to support that bill, and has indicated he would support Corker-Menendez. 

After Cardin, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenSavings through success in foreign assistance Overnight Cybersecurity: Mueller impanels grand jury in Russia probe | Researcher who helped stop WannaCry attack detained | Audit finds OPM systems still at risk Senators advance bill to train small business counselors in cybersecurity MORE (D-N.H.) would be the next most senior member. She has typically leaned somewhat hawkish on foreign policy. However, she did not co-sponsor the original version of Kirk-Menendez, and criticized an open letter to Iran by Republicans warning it that any deal might not last past the Obama administration. 

Sen. Chris CoonsChris CoonsWill Congress preserve monopoly power for healthcare lobbyists? Savings through success in foreign assistance Sunday shows preview: Senators tout bill to protect Mueller MORE (D-Del.), next after Shaheen, is a co-sponsor of the original Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill, a co-sponsor of the latest version and has also signed the letter saying he would support it after March.

All Senate Democrats last week voted to unanimously pass a nonbinding budget amendment in support of sanctions if the administration could not certify to members of Congress that Iran was not violating any deal.

Last updated at 8:46 p.m.

— Jordain Carney contributed.