Dem 51
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GOP 49
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The Menendez Story Continues

The scandal around Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) just keeps getting worse. More Democrats are calling for Menendez to resign right now. The initial list is interesting. Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) wants him out. Of course, then Murphy would get to appoint a replacement (which might well be Phil Murphy). New Jersey Reps. Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, Frank Pallone, and Bill Pascrell (all D) all want him out, too. And all four would be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and take Menendez' seat if he goes.

On the other hand, as of Monday morning, the only senator to call for Menendez to vamoose right now is Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who is clearly feeling frisky since he is now allowed to wear short pants on the Senate floor. One person who is conspicuously silent is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). When a gag photo came to light of then-senator Al Franken pretending to grope a sleeping woman (and remember, he was a professional comedian before becoming a senator), it was Gillibrand who hounded him out of the Senate. Franken also had a track record of patting women on the behind. Gillibrand's response, set against the backdrop of #MeToo, was understandable. That said, were Franken's misdeeds, which fell well short of what we saw from folks like Harvey Weinstein and Bill O'Reilly, worse than being as crooked as the day is long, taking a million dollars in bribes from people closely tied to a foreign government, and being in the running for the title of "most corrupt senator ever"? And yet, nary a word from the New Yorker.

That said, Gillibrand is not in the leadership, so her opinion isn't that important. Consequently, we give the Coward of the Week Award to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Majority Whip. Yesterday on CNN's State of the Union he declined to call for Menendez' resignation, saying the Senator is innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the only qualification for being in the Senate is that you aren't a convicted felon. Presumably Durbin is also fine with Clarence Thomas taking exotic vacations and all kinds of free goodies from billionaires because he isn't a convicted felon either. Incidentally, here's how Durbin responded to Al Franken's scandal:

Dick Durbin's tweet calling on Al Franken to resign

In contrast to Franken, who had to go but was never even charged with anything let alone convicted, Menendez has been formally charged with crimes (for the second time) and there is a ton of photographic evidence out there already. Taken as a whole, one is left to wonder to what extent Gillibrand and Durbin were legitimately upset with Franken, and to what extent they were just opportunists trying to get Doug Jones (D) across the finish line in his U.S. Senate race against pedophile Roy Moore. Or maybe Gillibrand was already thinking about running for president in 2020 and wanted to lock down the womens' vote so beating up on Franken was useful to her politically.

In any case, Andy Kim has already announced he will enter the Democratic primary next year. Sherrill and some others are likely to follow. Of course if Menendez resigns and Murphy appoints himself, that changes everything. In that case, keeping a safe seat might be, say, safer.

But the big news came yesterday. Chris Christie was on "Meet the Press" and this time Kristin Welker didn't blow it. She asked him if he might run for the Republican Senate nomination next year. He gave a categorical "No." No ifs, ands, or buts. Just "No." He added: "I had a chance to appoint myself to the United States Senate after the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg in 2013. If I didn't appoint myself, the easiest way to get there, I sure as heck am not going to run for it." That sounds like "no" to us. Of course, he wants to defeat Donald Trump now and saying that he doesn't expect to win so he'll take the GOP nomination for the Senate as a consolation prize defeats him two ways. First, it looks bad. Second, to pursue the Senate seat, he would have to drop out of the presidential race now. Our guess is that Christie thinks Menendez will be gone by Nov. 2024 and he thinks that in today's partisan atmosphere, he couldn't beat Murphy or any of the young Democratic representatives who might be appointed to replace him if he goes. Democrats find him useful now because he is vigorously opposing Donald Trump, but if they have to choose between him (knowing what they know about him now, that is, Bridgegate) and a reasonable Democrat, the Democrat will win.

One thing we haven't heard much about is the Democrats trying to expel Menendez from the Senate. They want to get rid of him as fast as possible and they control the Senate, so they could start expulsion hearings immediately. This would be a twofer. First, it would show that Democrats respect the rule of law, even when one of their own violates it. Second, it would put the Senate Republicans on the spot. They want to keep Menendez in the news to show how corrupt the Democrats are. If they voted to expel, Murphy would appoint himself or one of the young representatives and the story would move on to "What is the new senator like?" However, if they voted to acquit him, the Democrats would pound them saying they excuse all lawbreaking, Democratic and Republican alike. For the party of law and order that likes to campaign against crime, that would hurt. (V)

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