Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Reid Won't Speculate on Menendez's Post

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Reid Won't Speculate on Menendez's Post

Article excerpt

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called Sen. Bob Menendez "an outstanding senator" but would not speculate Tuesday about whether Menendez should lose his leadership post on the Foreign Relations Committee if he is indicted.

Several published reports have said the Justice Department is preparing to charge Menendez with improperly using his office to further the business interests of Salomon Melgen, a major contributor and friend. Menendez has said he has done nothing wrong.

The Senate Republicans' political arm has been trying to draw Reid, a Democrat from Nevada considered vulnerable in his reelection next year, into the Menendez scandal.

Reid arranged a meeting in 2012 at which Menendez questioned Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about a regulation at the center of a Medicare overpayment dispute that Melgen, a Florida eye specialist, was having with the government.

Asked if the meeting was proper, Reid avoided the question and instead gave a brief statement about an interview he gave the Justice Department about it.

"I was interviewed about a year ago. I haven't heard anything since. That's all I'm going to say," Reid said.

Speaking at a news conference after the Democratic caucus lunch, Reid also would not discuss Menendez's position as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

"Let's wait and see what happens before we start speculating about what should happen if something happens," Reid said.

Senate Republicans have a rule that upon an indictment a senator must step aside from leadership posts in the caucus and on committees. Asked why Democrats do not have such a rule, Reid said, "Beats me."

Asked if he had confidence in Menendez, Reid said: "Senator Menendez has done a stalwart job as chair of the committee, and as far as I'm concerned, he's been an outstanding senator."

Who leaked details?

Menendez attended a foreign relations committee meeting Tuesday morning where he challenged officials from the State and Defense departments to explain why the United States has not provided defensive weapons to Ukraine that were authorized in a law passed last year.

The pending charges did not come up in the hearing, but when he was stopped in a hallway afterward by a reporter for Politico, Menendez criticized the Justice Department over the leaked reports he would be charged. …

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