Fetterman becomes first Democratic senator to demand Bob Menendez resign over corruption charges

Senator John Fetterman
Sen. John Fetterman at the US Capitol.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman is calling on New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to resign.

  • Fetterman said his colleague, facing corruption charges, shouldn't "wield influence" in the Senate.

  • Menendez has resisted calls to step down, saying he is "not going anywhere."

Worried about their slim majority, Democratic leaders in the Senate have thus far resisted joining the chorus — including members of their own party — demanding that New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez step aside over allegations that he corruptly served the interests of a foreign power.

But on Saturday, John Fetterman, the US senator from Pennsylvania, broke with other Democrats in the upper chamber just as one of his colleagues in the House, New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim, announced he was directly challenging Menendez for his seat.

"Senator Menendez should resign," Fetterman wrote in a post on social media. "He's entitled to the presumption of innocence, but he cannot continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations."

"I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial," Fetterman added.

Menendez was indicted on Friday. Federal prosecutors accused him of taking bribes — including bars of gold — to, among other things, ensure that the US continued to provide military aid to Egypt, despite concerns over human rights and political repression. It is the second time the senator has been charged with corruption. A 2015 indictment accused him of taking bribes to promote a donor's business (the case was ultimately dismissed in 2018 following a hung jury).

While Fetterman may represent a neighboring state, the Philadelphia media market covers much of New Jersey, and even before the senator's election win over Dr. Mehmet Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate race last fall, he had already cultivated a national profile among Democrats across the country.

Other leading Democrats have called for Menendez to leave Congress, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, a Republican, has also called for the senator to resign.

High-profile Democrats in New Jersey's congressional delegation, including Reps. Mikie Sherrill and Josh Gottheimer, have also pressed Menendez to step down from office. (Both Sherrill and Gottheimer are also seen by many Democrats as potential Senate candidates should Menendez resign.)

So far, at least, Menendez is resisting that call. Although he has stepped down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as required by chamber bylaws, he has pledged to remain in his seat as he fights the charges against him.

"It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat," Menendez said on Friday. "I am not going anywhere."

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