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Bob Menendez
Senator Bob Menendez (2022).jpg
United States Senator
from New Jersey
Assumed office
January 17, 2006
Serving with Cory Booker
Preceded by Jon Corzine
Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
In office
February 3, 2021 – September 22, 2023
Preceded by Jim Risch
Succeeded by Vacant
In office
February 1, 2013 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by John Kerry
Succeeded by Bob Corker
Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
In office
February 6, 2018 – February 3, 2021
Preceded by Ben Cardin
Succeeded by Jim Risch
In office
January 3, 2015 – April 2, 2015
Preceded by John Kerry
Succeeded by Ben Cardin
Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
In office
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2011
Leader Harry Reid
Preceded by Chuck Schumer
Succeeded by Patty Murray
Chair of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 16, 2006
Leader Nancy Pelosi
Preceded by Martin Frost
Succeeded by Jim Clyburn
Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 1999 – January 3, 2003
Leader Nancy Pelosi
Preceded by Barbara B. Kennelly
Succeeded by Jim Clyburn
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 13th district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 16, 2006
Preceded by Frank Joseph Guarini
Succeeded by Albio Sires
Member of the New Jersey Senate
from the 33rd district
In office
March 4, 1991 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Christopher Jackman
Succeeded by Bernard Kenny
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 33rd district
In office
January 12, 1988 – March 4, 1991
Preceded by Jose Arango
Ronald Dario
Succeeded by Louis Romano
Mayor of Union City
In office
Preceded by Arthur Wichert
Succeeded by Bruce Walter
Personal details
Robert Menendez

(1954-01-01) January 1, 1954 (age 70)
New York City, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Jane Jacobsen
(m. 1976; div. 2005)

Nadine Arslanian
(m. 2020)
Children Alicia and Rob
1 stepdaughter
  • Saint Peter's University (BA)
  • Rutgers University, Newark (JD)

Robert Menendez ( 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.

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.


Robert Menendez official photo
Representative Bob Menendez during the 109th Congress
Menendez (second from right) marching in the 2010 North Hudson Cuban Day Parade with Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack (second from left)

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. On May 13, 1986, he defeated Musto for mayor. Menendez served as mayor until 1992 and in November 1987 was elected to represent the state's 33rd district in General Assembly. He continued to hold both offices until March 1991, when he moved from the Assembly to the New Jersey Senate.

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. 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 September 2023, Menendez was 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. Menendez was formally charged with conspiracy to act as a foreign agent of the Egyptian government in an October 2023 indictment.

Political views


Menendez is an "aggressive advocate" of immigration reform, calling it the "civil rights issue of our time". He has introduced multiple pieces of legislation in attempts to overhaul what he calls our "failed immigration system." Menendez introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011, but it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2009, he introduced the Orphans, Widows, and Widowers Protection Act, granting a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented widowers and orphans of deceased U.S. citizens.

Menendez is a strong supporter of the DREAM Act, saying, "Children should not be punished for the actions of their parents. These kids have grown up as Americans, worked hard in school and now they want to serve our country in the military or pursue a college education. This is the only home many of them have known and they should be encouraged to pursue the American dream." He voted for the DREAM Act in 2007 and was a cosponsor along with 31 other senators in the Act's failed passage in 2010.

Menendez voted against denying legal status to illegal immigrants convicted of domestic violence, but voted to establish a six-month to 20-year ban for undocumented immigrants seeking citizenship who had been convicted for the same crimes along with obstruction of justice and the participation of criminal gang activity.

Menendez marching in the 2010 Cuban Day Parade in North Hudson, New Jersey

Menendez supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 and Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, voting for both bills. He voted against Senate Amendment 1151, declaring English the national language of the Federal government of the United States. He voted to continue federal funding for declared "sanctuary cities."

He voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, building 700 miles (1,100 km) of physical barriers and expanding surveillance at the Mexico–U.S. border, and supported Senate Amendment 4775, which would have appropriated $1.8 billion for the construction of 370 miles (600 km) of triple-layered fencing, and 461 miles (742 km) of vehicle barriers along parts of the Southwest.

On January 28, 2013, Menendez was a member of a bipartisan group of eight senators that announced principles for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). In 2014 the National Council of La Raza (America's largest Latino advocacy organization) recognized Menendez for his work in supporting immigration reform as a member of the "Gang of Eight."


In June 2019, Menendez and 18 other Democratic senators sent USDA Inspector General Phyllis K. Fong a letter requesting that she investigate USDA instances of retaliation and political decision-making and asserted that not conducting an investigation would mean these "actions could be perceived as a part of this administration's broader pattern of not only discounting the value of federal employees, but suppressing, undermining, discounting, and wholesale ignoring scientific data produced by their own qualified scientists."

Disaster relief

In April 2018, Menendez was one of five Democratic senators to sign a letter to FEMA administrator Brock Long calling on FEMA to enter an agreement with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development that would "stand up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program and address the medium- and longer-term housing needs" of evacuees of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The senators asserted that "FEMA's refusal to use the tools at its disposal, including DHAP, to help these survivors is puzzling – and profoundly troubling" and that hundreds of hurricane survivors were susceptible to being left homeless in the event that FEMA and HUD continued to not work together.


Menendez introduced legislation that would give incentives for the conversion of vehicles to run on natural gas; the bill did not make it out of committee in its first incarnation, and failed to receive 60 votes required to pass in 2012.

In February 2019, in response to reports of the EPA intending to decide against setting drinking water limits for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as part of an upcoming national strategy to manage the aforementioned class of chemicals, Menendez was one of 20 senators to sign a letter to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler calling on the agency "to develop enforceable federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, as well as institute immediate actions to protect the public from contamination from additional per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)."

In June 2019, Menendez was one of 44 senators to introduce the International Climate Accountability Act, legislation that would prevent President Trump from using funds in an attempt to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and directing the Trump administration to instead develop a strategic plan for the United States that would allow it to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement.


Menendez sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act, expanding Title IX of the Education Amendments Act to LGBT students, and the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011, which would also amend the Higher Education Act of 1965. He voted for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. In 2012, Menendez received a 94% rating from the Human Rights Campaign.

During a press conference about the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act, Menendez claimed that New Jersey was facing a $10.5 billion shortfall in its 2012 fiscal budget that would lead to cuts in state spending on education. Politifact rated this statement "false" because the 2012 budget was in fact balanced and increased funding for education.

LGBT policy

Menendez voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as a congressman in 1996; on December 18, 2011, he came out in support of, and co-sponsored, the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. Menendez also voted for the U.S. military's Don't ask, don't tell as a congressman, and co-sponsored the DADT repeal act in 2010.

In 1999, Menendez voted against a proposed amendment that would have banned adoption in Washington D.C. by same-sex couples and other persons not related by blood or marriage. The amendment failed with 213 votes in favor and 215 votes against.

Of gay rights, Menendez has said, "Two people who want to be committed to each other should be able to enter into marriage, and they should receive the benefits that flow from that commitment."

Gun policy

Menendez has an "F" rating from the National Rifle Association and a "F−" rating from the Gun Owners of America due to his support of gun law reform. Specifically, he supports universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

In January 2019, Menendez was one of 40 senators to introduce the Background Check Expansion Act, a bill that would require background checks for either the sale or transfer of firearms including all unlicensed sellers.

Health care

In December 2018, Menendez was one of 42 senators to sign a letter to Trump administration officials Alex Azar, Seema Verma, and Steve Mnuchin arguing that the administration was improperly using Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act to authorize states to "increase health care costs for millions of consumers while weakening protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions." The senators requested the administration withdraw the policy and "re-engage with stakeholders, states, and Congress."

In January 2019, during the 2018–19 United States federal government shutdown, Menendez was one of 34 senators to sign a letter to Commissioner of Food and Drugs Scott Gottlieb recognizing the efforts of the FDA to address the effect of the government shutdown on the public health and employees while remaining alarmed "that the continued shutdown will result in increasingly harmful effects on the agency's employees and the safety and security of the nation's food and medical products."

Foreign affairs

Senator Robert Menendez, CODEL, Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept. 1, 2014 (14929307248)
Menendez with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Kyiv, Ukraine, September 2014

Menendez holds that the success of America's foreign policy is "inextricably linked to the health of her domestic democracy", stating in the January 19, 2021, confirmation hearings of Secretary-designate Antony Blinken that public servants and senators have a "duty to stand up for democracy, for the constitution, and for the rule of law." He identified chief concerns as "rebuilding alliances, restoring American leadership in international institutions, and addressing complex global challenges like climate change, migration, pandemics like COVID-19." He identifies the "core American values" as "democracy, human rights, and the rule of law", upon which foreign policy should be recentered.

In February 2006, Menendez cosponsored legislation with Senator Hillary Clinton to make it illegal for foreign governments to buy U.S. port operations. The legislation was a direct response to Dubai Ports World's efforts to purchase Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) of the United Kingdom, which operates six major U.S. ports. Menendez said, "Our ports are the front lines of the war on terrorism. They are both vulnerable targets for attack and venues for smuggling... We wouldn't turn the Border Patrol or the Customs Service over to a foreign government, and we can't afford to turn our ports over to one either."

On April 25, 2008, a former undercover FBI agent revealed in the book Ruse: Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence that Cuban diplomats approached freelance blogger and journalist Robert Eringer to investigate Menendez. It was suggested that the Cuban government was determined to generate derogatory information about him and Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Díaz-Balart because of their anti-Castro lobbying efforts.

In October 2009, Menendez sent a strongly worded letter of protest to Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, castigating him for his praise of Cuba's totalitarian system. Christofias, the leader of AKEL, Cyprus's communist party, from 1988 to 2009 and president from 2008 to 2013, had paid a state visit to Cuba in September 2009 for the opening of Cyprus's new embassy and, in his speech, made a number of anti-American embargo references, and spoke of the "common struggle of Cyprus and Cuba". In his letter to Christofias, Menendez wrote, "you cannot claim human rights violations by Turkey in your country and then ignore such violations in Cuba. Second, you cannot call for property rights for Greek Cypriots and then deny them on Cuba. Finally, you cannot take issue with the militarization of northern Cyprus and then ignore the state security apparatus that oppresses the Cuban people."

In December 2010, Menendez voted for the ratification of New Start, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and the Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads or 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years along with providing a continuation of on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year. It was the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years.

On August 18, 2015, Menendez announced his opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, saying, "President Obama continues to erroneously say that this agreement permanently stops Iran from having a nuclear bomb, Let's be clear: What the agreement does is to recommit Iran not to pursue a nuclear bomb, a promise they have already violated in the past."

In March 2017, Menendez co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.270), which made it a federal crime, punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if protesting actions by the Israeli government.

In 2018, Menendez urged Vice President Mike Pence to enter talks with Ecuador about withdrawing its asylum for Julian Assange. His letter, signed by nine other senators, alleged that it was Assange's goal to "undermine democratic processes globally". In March 2018, Menendez voted against Bernie Sanders's and Chris Murphy's resolution that would end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. But Menendez criticized Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, saying, "The Saudi Coalition bears significant responsibility for the magnitude of human suffering and scale of destruction in Yemen. Seventy-five percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 8 million are on the brink of famine."

HK activists at the U.S. Senate Foreign Committee
Menendez with Hong Kong activists who have become prominent figures in the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests

Menendez condemned the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and called for a stronger response to the crisis.

In January 2019, Menendez opposed Trump's planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan as a threat to U.S. national security.

In April 2019, Menendez was one of 34 senators to sign a letter to Trump encouraging him to provide foreign assistance to Central American countries. Menendez argued that by helping to improve conditions in those countries, the U.S. could significantly reduce the number of immigrants coming from them.

Menendez called for the Trump administration to immediately suspend U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan, sent through Pentagon's "building partner assistance program." According to critics, the aid could be used in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Menendez became chair of the Foreign Relations Committee after John Kerry's confirmation as Secretary of State in January 2013. His "Syria force resolution" was praised by President Obama and others. Menendez has supported taking a "hard line" on Iran.

Foreign affairs legislation sponsored
  • Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013 (S. 793; 113th Congress) – Menendez introduced this bill on April 24, 2013. The bill would require the Secretary of State to develop a multiyear strategy to bolster the Organization of American States (OAS) and improve the OAS's processes for managing its budget and personnel. The act would require the Secretary to provide quarterly briefings to Congress on the progress of implementing that strategy.
  • Support for United States-Republic of Korea Civil Nuclear Cooperation Act – Menendez introduced this bill, which would authorize the President to extend the term of the "Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Korea Concerning Civil Uses of Atomic Energy" to a date no later than March 19, 2016. The bill passed the Senate on January 27, 2014, and the House on January 28, 2014.
  • Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 was introduced to the 113th Congress on September 16, 2014, to address pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine. President Obama signed the bill into law on December 18, 2014.
  • Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022. In light of the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis, this legislation gave Ukraine $500 million "to assist the country in meeting its defense needs". The bill also reimposes sanctions on Russia.

Awards and honors

West New York, New Jersey, which borders Menendez's childhood hometown of Union City to the north, renamed Public School No. 3 in his honor; it is now known as Robert Menendez Elementary School. The renaming ceremony was held on December 4, 2013. In 2021, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Honour by President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou, for "his contribution to the deepening of Greek-US relations and the promotion of peace and cooperation in the wider region." He also received the Grand Cross of the Order of Makarios III from President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades for "his contribution to promoting human rights, the rule of law, and democracy."

  •  Greece
    • GRE Order of Honour Grand Cross BAR.png Grand Cross of the Order of Honour
    • Star for Merit and Honour (Ministry of National Defence commendation)
  •  Cyprus
    • Order of Makarios III (Cyprus) - ribbon bar.gif Grand Cross of the Order of Makarios III

Personal life

In 1976, Menendez married Jane Jacobsen, a teacher for the Union City Board of Education and Union City Public Schools. They had two children: Alicia Menendez, a MSNBC television commentator/host, and Rob Menendez, who worked as the Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and was elected to Congress in the 8th congressional district in 2022 as a Democrat. Menendez and Jane divorced in 2005. In October 2019, Menendez got engaged to Nadine Arslanian, a businesswoman from Bergen County. They married in October 2020.

In 2014, Menendez relocated from Union City to Paramus. In 2018, Menendez moved from Paramus to Harrison.

Images for kids

See also

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