Greg Nash

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee aren’t calling for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to step down from the panel.

Menendez is facing possible corruption charges from the Department of Justice but says he has no intention of resigning as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel.

{mosads}Democrats backing Menendez noted that no charges have been brought against the senator. 

“Nothing has happened yet,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told The Hill. “I’ve read the paper, so I obviously understand what is being talked about.”

He said he would not “talk about matters where there’s been no action taken.”

Cardin gave Menendez a firm squeeze on the shoulder as he left a committee hearing Tuesday on Ukraine.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said “it’s way too premature to have that conversation” about Menendez’s committee position. “We haven’t seen anything official, so it’s far too premature.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at his press conference was noncommittal but called Menendez an “outstanding” senator who had done a “stalwart job.” 

“Let’s wait and see what happens before we start speculating about what should happen,” Reid said.

Menendez, who has been mobbed by reporters during his appearances on Capitol Hill this week, emphasized Tuesday that he faces no charges.

“Your question is based on supposition,” he said, striking a defiant tone in response to questions about his committee assignment. “It’s a supposition that right now is a hypothetical. And I’m not going to engage in supposition.”

Reports on Friday said the Justice Department was preparing charges against Menendez related to allegations that he used his federal office to help Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, one of his biggest donors.

It’s a crucial time for the New Jersey lawmaker, who is the leading Senate Democrat in the debate over Iran’s nuclear program and sanctions.

Menendez has been a vocal critic of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and his opening of relations with Cuba, which led Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to question whether a prosecution of the Democrat is politically motivated. 

Asked if the charges make it more difficult for him to criticize Obama’s foreign policy, Menendez said “I’m going to be both positive” but also let the White House know where he disagrees.

Menendez in recent weeks has been an ally of the administration. He’s worked with other Democrats to withhold support for new sanctions against Iran that could torpedo a nuclear deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday said any decision regarding Menendez’s post would be up to Reid.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who declined to say whether the leak of the charges should be prosecuted, predicted Menendez wouldn’t be going anywhere any time soon.

“All I see is a ranking member who continues to work with us in a very constructive way on the important issues of the day,” he told reporters. “My guess is that that’s going to continue for a long, long time.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) joined other Democrats in taking a wait-and-see outlook.

“We’ve heard a rumor that something is going to happen in a month. I’ve heard enough rumors about something that may happen in a month to know that you shouldn’t prejudge,” Kaine said. 

Tags Benjamin Cardin Harry Reid Iran Robert Menendez

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