Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unafraid to break with his party, has been a thorn in President Joe Biden’s side over several policies and decisions.
Biden became acquainted with Menendez’s propensity for making matters difficult for presidents of either party, especially those who do not value Congress’s role in crafting U.S. foreign policy, when he served as vice president.
Sen. Menendez defied former President Barack Obama on one of his most significant foreign policy accomplishments — the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that gave the Islamic Republic billions of dollars in sanction relief in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.
President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, but Biden is trying to revive it, drawing the ire of the New Jersey senator.
The Biden White House has reportedly tried to curry favor with the Democrat senator, but that has not stopped Menendez from repudiating several moves by the president not least being the muddled withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Less than a year into Biden’s tenure as president, Menendez has come out on opposite sides of the White House at least five times:
- Chairman Menendez rips Biden’s U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as “clearly and fatally flawed” during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing early this month featuring testimony from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
- Sen. Menendez joined forces with Republicans in late March to oppose Biden’s efforts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. A bipartisan group of 41 Senators led by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Menendez penned a letter to Biden urging him to aim for a comprehensive deal with Iran that addresses national security concerns beyond Tehran’s nuclear program, such as the Islamic Republic’s ballistics missile program and the release of American citizens unjustly detained by the Shiite nation.
- The New Jersey Democrat blasted Biden for initially reneging on his pledge to increase refugee admissions from his predecessor’s historically low level of 15,000. Biden ultimately followed through on his promise to raise the cap to over 60,000 in fiscal 2021 and 125,000 the following year.
- During a hearing by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Tuesday featuring testimony from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Menendez lamented the lack of Latinos in top-level, senior positions at the Treasury Department filled by presidential appointment requiring Senate confirmation — an indictment of the lack of diversity in the administration.
- In late June, Menendez cast doubt on Biden’s authority to launch airstrikes against Iran-allied militiamen who have engaged in attacks against U.S. personnel and assets in Iraq, killing Americans and coalition forces early this year.