Senator Cardin: Replace Menendez!

As national advocates in the peace and justice movement, we believe that hawkish Senator Bob Menendez should step down as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and be replaced by a senior committee member who upholds the highest ethical standards and prioritizes peace and diplomacy. 

 

As national advocates in the peace and justice movement, we believe that hawkish Senator Bob Menendez should step down as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and be replaced by a senior committee member who upholds the highest ethical standards and prioritizes peace and diplomacy. We urgently call on the Senior  member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin, to take swift action on this matter based on two critical issues:

The first is the serious questions that have been raised about Senator Menendez’s ethical behavior. In 2018, the Senate Ethics Committee found that Menendez violated Senate rules and federal law by knowingly and repeatedly accepting impermissible gifts of significant value over six years from Dr. Salomon Melgen, an eye doctor who was convicted of Medicare fraud. “The Committee concludes that your actions violated Senate Rules and related statutes, and reflected discredit upon the Senate,” it continued, saying that Menendez was “severely admonished” for his actions and ordered Menendez to pay back the gifts he received from Salomon Melgen.

The Senator is now under criminal investigation as to whether he and his wife improperly took cash and gifts from the owners of an Edgewater halal meat business in exchange for an exclusive contract with Egypt, a country under the purview of Menendez' Foreign Relations Committee. In May, investigations expanded to possible connections to a real estate developer who pleaded guilty to a loan scam. Investigators are examining whether Menendez's wife received gifts such as a car, jewels, and a DC apartment in exchange for political favors. As new subpoenas are being issued, many have reported being afraid of speaking out of fear of retaliation by the Senator who is known to be vengeful.

Our second concern is Senator Menedez’ hawkish stance on Cuba policy. The Senator leverages his Cuban heritage and influential role as chairman of the Senate Committee to thwart any efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. The Senator's support for a continued trade embargo and travel prohibition contradicts longstanding popular opinion that favors lifting these restrictions and undermines our national interest in normalizing relations with a neighboring country. Rather than rejecting Trump’s increased sanctions and the illegitimate designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, Menendez clings to a 60-year failed policy of regime change that prolongs the agony of a resource-poor island nation of 11 million people.

Cuba’s innovations in medicine -- vaccines against COVID-19 and meningitis B, new treatments for lung cancer, hepatitis B diabetic foot, vitiligo and psoriasis -- largely remain off-limits to US medical professionals seeking global collaboration in health care. In May of this year, 21 House Democrats wrote to President Joe Biden to lift sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela to curtail increased migration to the US borders. Instead of joining his colleagues' demands, Senator Bob Menendez sent his letter to the representatives, “vehemently'' disagreeing with their demands while pushing the narrative that US sanctions are not behind the worsened economic conditions in Cuba and Venezuela. US sanctions have contributed to unemployment, scarcity, and general misery in Cuba.

Senator Menendez’s second federal investigation in five years and his commitment to undermining cooperation efforts with our neighbor raises concerns about his ethical fitness. While he is the subject of an investigation, he should not be leading a committee with significant responsibilities that demand a high level of integrity.We need a Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who recognizes the imperative of world cooperation and being a good neighbor. Consequently, we ask Senior Senator Ben Cardin and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to urge Senator Menendez to resign as Chair so that a more ethical, progressive and visionary committee member can assume the mantle of leadership.

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