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Politico: Reid Will Face Pressure to Remove Menendez From Leadership if Menendez Is Indicted

03/09/2015 05:01 pm ET | Updated May 09, 2015

Senate Republicans have a rule that if a Republican Senator is indicted for a felony, that Senator has to give up any Republican leadership position in the Senate.

Politico reports that Senate Democrats don't have a rule like Senate Republicans do, but that nonetheless Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will face pressure to remove New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez from the Democratic leadership in the Senate if Menendez is indicted [my emphasis]:

But the involvement of the then-Senate majority leader, who now runs the Democratic minority, highlights the seriousness of both the investigation and the problem Reid has on his hands in dealing with a member in his ranks who's expected to be indicted within weeks.
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It would be the first time in his decade as Senate party leader that he would have to handle the fallout of an indicted Democratic senator. He would have to choose between standing behind a fellow Democrat who proclaims his innocence or distancing himself and his Democratic colleagues from the scandal. The fact that Menendez sought Reid's help on Melgen's behalf further complicates matters for the minority leader.

Reid will face pressure to remove Menendez from his spot as ranking Democrat on the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even though there are no explicit caucus rules requiring an indicted senator to step down from committee leadership posts.

Politico cites the precedents of Ted Stevens and Charlie Rangel, who had to give up leadership positions when under indictment or investigation:

The expected indictment of Menendez would become the highest-profile case the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section has brought against a sitting U.S. senator since 2008, when the late GOP Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska faced felony charges for failing to report gifts. After Stevens was indicted, he was forced to give up his ranking member position on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Similarly, in 2009, then-Sen. John Ensign gave up a leadership post after he revealed an extramarital affair with a campaign aide. And in 2010, New York Rep. Charles Rangel gave up his spot as the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee when he came under investigation by the Ethics Committee over his failure to pay taxes from income on a vacation home.

When Menendez says he's not going anywhere, Politico interprets this to mean that he has no intention of resigning from the Senate if he is indicted; he's not necessarily saying anything about remaining in the Senate Democratic leadership [my emphasis]:

Menendez, who has set up a legal-defense fund to cover the costs of the long-running criminal investigation, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and he has vowed to remain in office even if indicted.

"Let me be very clear, very clear. I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law," Menendez said at Friday night news conference. "I am not going anywhere."

Whatever else may be true, Menendez is certainly very knowledgeable about politics and procedure. It may be that he is being careful not to plant a flag that he knows he may not be able to defend; he may be implicitly conceding that if indicted, he may have to give up his Democratic leadership position.

If you think that Minority Leader Reid should remove Menendez from the Senate Democratic leadership if Menendez is indicted, you can join more than 9000 other Americans in telling your Senators so here.