WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Embattled U.S. Senator Bob Menendez left a closed-door meeting with fellow Democrats on Thursday insisting that he will remain on the job despite calls for his resignation over federal charges he accepted bribes.
“I will continue to cast votes on behalf of the people in New Jersey as I have for 18 years and I am sure when they need those votes, there’ll be looking forward for me to cast those votes,” Menendez told CNN following the gathering, which lasted for about an hour.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin repeatedly told reporters that Menendez conveyed during that meeting that he would not resign, and Manchin said no senators posed any questions to the 69-year-old lawmaker.
Menendez has temporarily stepped down from his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was replaced by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.
Many of the Democratic senators leaving Thursday’s meeting refused to comment to reporters.
One of the most outspoken Democrats demanding a resignation, Senator John Fetterman, told reporters that he did not attend the lunchtime meeting. He added, however, that Menendez was “continuing a level of arrogance that is astonishing.” He told reporters: “I would like to pursue whatever avenues are available” to get Menendez to leave, including a move in the full Senate to expel him.
It would take a two-thirds vote of the 100 senators to remove a senator. That has occurred only 15 times in U.S. history, 14 of which were during the U.S. Civil War for supporting the Confederacy.
At least 27 senators in the 51-member caucus – Democrats and three independents who typically vote with them – have called for Menendez’ resignation including No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin. Gary Peters, the head of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, and Menendez’ fellow senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker, joined the call.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, said on Wednesday Menendez’ behavior fell below the standard appropriate for a senator, but stopped short of calling for him to resign.
Prosecutors have said Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for using their influence to interfere with law enforcement probes of three New Jersey businessmen and aid the Egyptian government.
They pleaded not guilty in court on Wednesday.
Menendez’ Senate seat is in play in the 2024 elections. Though New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972, his legal troubles could pose problems for his party, which is trying to maintain its narrow control of the chamber. Menendez has drawn one challenger to the seat so far.