Congressional Spotlight: Senator Bob Menendez


NEWARK — Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was only 19 years old when he led a successful reformation of his local school board. On Jan. 18, 2006, Menendez was sworn into the Senate and became one of the few Latinos to serve in Congress.

Menendez grew up in Union City and was raised by immigrant parents. Recently, Menendez met and planned strategies with immigrant rights activists. Some consider him the “Senior Senator for Latinos in America.” The first Latino to serve as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), Menendez has been described as “one of the toughest and most well-respected committee leaders in their caucus.”

During his career, he has significantly shaped foreign policy. Menendez was a key architect of sanctions against Iran and Russia. He vocally expressed the need to curb Iran’s nuclear program and played a major role in securing Congress to review the Iran deal.

In 2013, Menendez sponsored the Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013, which was signed into law by President Obama. In a press release, he stated that he desired to see a strong Organization of American States (OAS) advancing democracy and defending peace, security, rule of law and human rights in the Americas. Currently, there are 35 OAS member states.

As part of the 113th Senate, Menendez sponsored the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013. Taking into account a more systematic collection and analysis of data, this Act amended and renewed many parts of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003. The PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013 was enacted into law on Dec. 2, 2013. PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease internationally.

On Russia, Menendez has not budged on his stance. He led actions to punish Russia for its invasion and annexation of Crimea; his Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 proposed several sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy while increasing assistance for Ukraine. In 2015, he rallied to request President of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Josef Blatter to remove Russia as the host of the 2018 World Cup.

Menendez has also led the fight in Congress to avoid trade with human traffickers. He introduced an amendment to prohibit “fast track” trade deals with countries ranked tier three in the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports. The Trafficking in Persons Integrity Act (TIPRIA), which contains the amendment, was signed into law on June 29, 2015.

One key element of his career is his success in bipartisan collaboration to produce positive results for the U.S. He was a key player in negotiating with Republicans for the authorization of military force against ISIS. Both Democrats and Republicans cosponsored 25 of his 73 bills, giving him the tenth highest number of bipartisan bills among all senators. Although he did not cast his vote for the new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he stated that he would actively seek ways to engage with the Secretary on pressing foreign policy issues.

In 2008, Menendez acknowledged the difficulty and necessity of passing foreign aid bills: “When we extend credit to a woman in Guatemala, we are taking a small step toward building a market for American goods and new jobs here at home. When we train a police force in northern Mexico, we’re striking a blow against organized crime that is already spilling over the border, and when we fix health systems in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re preventing diseases that kill Americans, too.”

This year, Menendez has been extremely busy at the Capitol. When he returns to New Jersey, he has been campaigning to stop the deportation of a 25-year New Jersey resident, Catalino Guerrero. He also has been raising awareness for Bob Levinson, America’s longest-held hostage in history. Bob’s son interns at the Menendez office.

On June 7, 2016, Menendez tweeted, “I will not be silent…” The Borgen Project recognizes his tireless efforts and the feats he has accomplished for New Jersey and his country.

Andy Jung

Photo: Flickr


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