Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) made his crusade against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) official Thursday, introducing a resolution to sanction the New Jersey senator after he was indicted on bribery charges in September.
“When you find gold bars stuffed in a mattress, the jokes write themselves. But our national security isn’t funny, it’s often life or death,” Fetterman said in a statement.
The sanctions proposed in the resolution would automatically strip any senator indicted on charges of mishandling classified information, acting as a foreign agent or compromising national security of their committee assignments and access to classified information.
Menendez was indicted in September on bribery charges accusing him and his wife of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold and other gifts in order to act on behalf of interests in Egypt.
“The Senate has an obligation to its constituents and this country to do everything it can to protect national security, and that means making sure that senators who are currently indicted for acting as agents of foreign powers don’t have access to our most sensitive national secrets,” Fetterman continued. “If an indicted senator doesn’t have the guts or basic decency to step down, the Senate must act to protect national security and the institution itself.”
Fetterman has been the loudest voice against Menendez in the Senate. He was the first senator to call on Menendez to resign after he was indicted and has repeatedly pushed the issue in the media.
He also led the charge to expel Menendez from the Senate after the senator’s indictment was amended last month, adding the foreign agent charge.
Menendez has denied wrongdoing in the case.
He has continued to attend classified briefings and sit as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In line with Democratic Caucus rules, he stepped down as chair of that committee.
“Bottom line is, I’m a United States senator. I have my security credentials. And an accusation is just that: It’s not proof of anything,” Menendez said Wednesday.
The race to replace Menendez has already heated up. While he has committed to staying in office, multiple New Jersey politicians have announced campaigns to primary him or signal they may.
Among the leading names is Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), who launched a campaign the day after Menendez was indicted. Tammy Murphy, the wife of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), has also hinted that she will run for the office.