In the wake of Senator Robert Menendez’s recent indictment on federal bribery charges, many of his Democratic colleagues in Congress have called on him to resign, including some of the most senior members of the caucus. But Senator John Fetterman has stood out from the pack.
After news first broke that Menendez had been indicted by federal prosecutors, Fetterman was the first senator to speak out. “He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, but he cannot continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations. I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial,” he tweeted Saturday, just one day after the charges were unveiled. Fetterman noted that more of his fellow senators spoke out about a recent change in the Senate dress code than about accusations that one of their own received gold bars in exchange for political favors. (Fetterman, a former lieutenant governor who is frequently spotted wearing a sweatshirt and shorts in the halls of the U.S. Capitol, was at the center of the Senate dress-code debate.)
For two days, the freshman senator was the lone member of the chamber to comment on Menendez’s legal woes. A cascade of calls to resign began on Monday with Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, and as of Thursday, more than half of the Democratic senators have called for Menendez to quit. Their Republican counterparts have notably abstained from doing so.
But while most Democratic senators issued statements and left it at that, Fetterman has continued to call out Menendez, who has brushed off calls for him to step down and has vowed to fight the charges. The Messenger reported that the Pennsylvania senator intends to return $5,000 in donations made by a Menendez PAC to his 2022 Senate campaign.
When it was reported that Menendez intended to speak before the Democratic Senate caucus on Thursday, Fetterman indicated in a statement released the morning of that he was not interested.
“Unless Senator Menendez is coming today to resign, I am not interested in hearing his ‘explanation’ for gold bars stashed in a mattress. We’re past the point of his tough talk and defiance, given the scope and scale of his alleged corruption,” he wrote.
As expected, Fetterman didn’t attend the caucus meeting. But following the closed-door gathering, the Pennsylvania senator indicated that he would support a resolution to expel Menendez if it came to that, according to Politico.