If Democrat Senator Bob Menendez is Convicted For Corruption, Everything Could Change With Obamacare Repeal

Posted: Aug 22, 2017 3:30 PM

Here's a story that's been flying under the radar at the national news level. New Jersey's Democrat Senator Bob Menendez is about to go on trial for corruption. The jury selection started today and press was not allowed access to the process. The Senator was indicted two years ago and ethics experts say it is extremely rare for a sitting congressman or senator to be indicted on the charges Menendez currently faces. From the New York Times: 

Mr. Menendez stands accused of using his position to advance the interests of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a friend and political patron, in exchange for luxury vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign support.

Even a bribery conviction would not automatically force Mr. Menendez from office, under the Senate rules. He would either have to voluntarily resign his seat, or two-thirds of his Senate colleagues — meaning 15 Democrats — would have to vote to expel him.
Democrats largely have met Mr. Menendez’s upcoming trial with silence, happy to let the daily torrent of Trump administration news overshadow it, refusing to speculate about the senator’s future even as some, most notably Mr. Torricelli, have begun to position themselves should Mr. Menendez step aside or be convicted.
But as the trial nears, Mr. Menendez’s uncertain fate has been the subject of growing consternation and conjecture, from the courthouse in Newark to the corridors of the United States Capitol, especially after Dr. Melgen, an ophthalmologist, was convicted this spring in a separate case of defrauding Medicare of nearly $100 million.
The jury found Dr. Melgen, 63, guilty of all 67 counts. He faces spending much of the rest of his life in prison, which could add pressure to cooperate with prosecutors, although there is no evidence that has happened.

The big issue hanging in the balance that could change everything? A vote on Obamacare. With Menendez out of the picture, Republicans could pass repeal and replace with a GOP successor.

When Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey goes on trial on federal corruption charges in three weeks, far more than his own fate hinges on the outcome.

If Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, is convicted and then expelled from the United States Senate by early January, his replacement would be picked by Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey and an ally of President Trump.

That scenario — where Mr. Menendez’s interim replacement would more than likely be a Republican — would have immediate and far-reaching implications: The Republicans would be gifted a crucial extra vote just as the party remains a single senator shy of repealing President Obama’s signature health care law. Those potential consequences only heighten the drama around the first federal bribery charges leveled against a sitting senator in a generation.

Democrats have a choice to make if Menendez is convicted: back a felon for the sake of saving Obamacare, or face Obamacare repeal and replacement with a vote from his Republican successor. I have a feeling they'll be choosing the former. Menendez is unlikely to resign voluntarily, but that won't matter if he's headed off to federal prison to serve time. 

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