Sen. Bob Menendez Obstructs Key Votes In Foreign Relations Committee

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Amber Athey Podcast Columnist
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Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez has been denying key votes and hearings as the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including a vote on the nomination of Kelly Craft to U.N. ambassador.

“Committee members have a right and responsibility to vote, and Menendez is actively working to deny not only votes but also hearings,” a Senate aide told the Daily Caller. “Menendez is corrupting the historic integrity of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and taking away the tradition of comity that has been a hallmark of this committee’s work.”

Craft, who currently serves as the ambassador to Canada, was nominated by President Donald Trump to U.N. ambassador in early May and had her hearing in mid-June. But Craft has yet to receive a committee vote that will determine whether or not her nomination moves to the Senate floor, leaving the U.S. without a high-level official to conduct business at the U.N. Security Council. (RELATED: Trump Nominates Kelly Knight Craft To UN Ambassador)

After Craft’s hearing, Menendez demanded additional information about the 300 days the ambassador spent outside of her post in Ottawa, Canada. Craft says those trips were primarily spent on official business to negotiate the USMCA trade deal.

“The bottom line is, without the full record, we can’t evaluate it,” Menendez said about Craft’s travels.

The Senate aide, however, paints a more nefarious picture of Menendez’s requests.

“He obstructs by saying he needs more information, but then he moves the goal posts after the majority has gone to great lengths to get his initial requests satisfied,” the aide argued.

In the meantime, the majority is hoping to vote on Craft’s nomination before the August recess, as the U.N. will host the General Assembly in New York in September. Her nomination is on the agenda for a business meeting next week, but allegedly without Menendez’s approval, as is common courtesy in the Foreign Relations Committee.

Menendez allegedly pulled a similar move with the nomination of Jeffrey Eberhardt to Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation. Eberhardt’s nomination was originally approved for a May 2 markup, but was pushed to May 22 and then “uncleared” by Menendez, who similarly demanded more information about the nominee.

Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jim Risch already committed to delivering the information Menendez sought about the “approval of seven nuclear technical expertise transfers to Saudi Arabia” prior to the markup. The Democrat still threatened to hold the markup hostage upon delivery of the information, which was indeed given by Risch prior to the meeting. Eberhardt was not confirmed by the full Senate until July 3.

Other nominees waited nearly a year between their nominations and hearings in the committee, including Andrew P. Bremberg to the Representative of the U.S. to the Office of the U.N. and Other International Organizations in Geneva. Bremberg was nominated in September 2018 but did not receive a hearing until May 2019.

Some haven’t been cleared by Menendez to have hearings at all. For example, Darrell Issa, a former Republican congressman from California, was tapped to head the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in September and has yet to have his moment in front of the committee.

Menendez has also allegedly tried to strip any high-level politically appointed nominees, including Craft, from the markup scheduled and noticed by Chairman Risch for next week. Also on the docket — and being refused a vote by Menendez — is Risch’s bill on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

A Senate aide described the markup as a “robust and reasonable” meeting and chided Menendez for consistently adding difficulty to standard committee business.

“Senators have a right to question nominees and vote to confirm them. Menendez is standing in the way of senators exercising their rights as elected officials and their advice and consent role that is their constitutional right,” the aide said.

Sen. Menendez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.