Bob Menendez

Bob Menendez

Robert Menendez

Robert Menendez

Robert Menendez (/mɛˈnɛndɛz/; born January 1, 1954) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the senior United States senator from New Jersey, a seat he has held since 2006. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor Jon Corzine, and chaired the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 2013 to 2015, and again from 2021 to 2023.

In 1974, at the age of 20, Menendez was elected to the Union City School District's Board of Education. He received degrees from Saint Peter's University and Rutgers Law School. In 1986, he was elected mayor of Union City. In 1988, while continuing to serve as mayor, he was elected to represent the state's 33rd district in the New Jersey General Assembly and, within three years, moved to the New Jersey Senate, upon winning the March 1991 special election for the 33rd Senate district. The next year, Menendez won a seat in the House of Representatives and represented New Jersey's 13th congressional district for six two-year terms, from 1993 to 2006. In January 2006, he was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jon Corzine (who had been elected governor of New Jersey) and was elected to a full six-year term in November; he was reelected in 2012 and 2018.

In 2015, Menendez was indicted on federal corruption charges; the jury was unable to reach a verdict, and the charges were dropped in 2018. In April 2018, the United States Senate Select Committee on Ethics "severely admonished" Menendez for accepting gifts from donor Salomon Melgen without obtaining committee approval, for failing to disclose certain gifts, and for using his position as a senator to advance Melgen's interests.

In September 2023, Menendez was again indicted on federal corruption charges that he aided and provided sensitive information to the government of Egypt. He stepped down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but refused to resign from the Senate and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, despite calls to resign from numerous state and congressional Democrats, including 30 of his Senate colleagues. In an October 2023 indictment, Menendez was formally charged with conspiracy to act as a foreign agent of the Egyptian government; a superseding indictment in January 2024 also accused Menendez of working for the government of Qatar.

Early life

Menendez was born on January 1, 1954, in New York City to Cuban immigrants who had left Cuba a few months earlier, in 1953. His father, Mario Menéndez, was a carpenter, and his mother, Evangelina, was a seamstress. The family subsequently moved to New Jersey, where he grew up in an apartment in Union City. He attended Union Hill High School, where his speech teacher, Gail Harper, helped him develop as a public speaker. Menendez has said, "My mother and Miss Harper made me understand the power of education, what it means to put a premium on learning and working hard." While at Union Hill, Menendez became the student body president. He went on to become the first in his family to go to college, attending Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, where he became a member of the Lambda Theta Phi fraternity. He graduated with a B.A. in political science, and earned his Juris Doctor degree from Rutgers Law School in 1979 at the Newark campus. Menendez was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1980 and became a lawyer in private practice.

Early political career

At the start of his career, Menendez was an aide to Union City Mayor William V. Musto. In 1974, he was elected to the Union City Board of Education, the youngest candidate to ever win election to the board. In 1982, he unsuccessfully challenged Musto for mayor. On May 13, 1986, he defeated Musto for mayor. Menendez's Alliance Civic Association ticket, which included future mayor Bruce Walter, won 57% of the vote, beating the reform slate Transformation '86 and the incumbent Union City Together ticket. Musto had been found guilty of corruption, and Menendez had testified against him, but Musto retained some popularity. The Together party, which included his wife, Commissioner Rhyta Musto, represented the remnants of Musto's political machine. In November 1987, he was elected to represent the state's 33rd district in General Assembly. He also continued to serve as mayor until 1992. He held both offices until March 1991 when he moved from the Assembly to the New Jersey Senate upon winning the special election called following the death of Christopher Jackman.

U.S. House of Representatives (1993–2006)

Tenure

Menendez, who is described as very close to Republicans on foreign policy, voted for the failed Kosovo Resolution, authorizing the use of military force against Yugoslavia in the Kosovo War. He was an early advocate of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, sponsoring the Iran Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1998, which passed the House but failed to pass the Senate. Menendez voted for Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, authorizing the President to use military force in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. In 2002, Menendez voted against the Iraq Resolution to authorize the invasion of Iraq. Menendez voted against the United Nations Reform Act of 2005, cutting U.S. funding to the U.N. by 50% over three years, and sponsored the Tsunami Orphans and Unaccompanied Children Act of 2005 to assist victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Menendez voted for the PATRIOT Act in 2001, and in 2006 for its reauthorization. In the 105th Congress, Menendez voted for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, repealing provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that limited investment banks from acquiring insurance companies or other commercial banks, and voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. After the 2001 Enron scandal, Menendez voted with 333 other House members for the Sarbanes–Oxley Act.

Although he had sometimes been portrayed as the political boss of Hudson County, he strongly dislikes this appellation, particularly because, according to an anonymous close source quoted in the December 11, 2005 Union City Reporter, "there is no boss of Hudson County". According to

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