Washington (CNN) - Sen. Robert Menendez's office issued a statement Wednesday saying he had traveled several times on a plane belonging to a Florida eye doctor who had given political donations to Menendez but that all the trips were "paid for and reported appropriately." The office also denied allegations the New Jersey Democrat had engaged the services of prostitutes.
The statement was issued after FBI agents searched the West Palm Beach office of the ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Investigators were seen carrying out boxes during the search, which began Tuesday night and continued into Wednesday. An FBI spokesman in Florida confirmed there was "law enforcement activity" at the location where the search occurred but did not mention Melgen or anyone else and did not explain what agents were investigating.
(CNN) - Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, is expected to become the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if and when the current chairman, Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, is confirmed as secretary of state, two Senate Democratic aides told CNN.
Menendez is in line to get the high-profile assignment because Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, who is the most senior Democrat on the committee behind Kerry, wants to remain chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, according to a top Boxer aide.
(CNN) - Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said Sunday that he introduced immigration legislation just before Congress left town so he could get "lame-duck movement" on the bill after the November mid-term elections.
While Menendez made clear there was zero chance the bill would pass this year, he said the goal of proposing it was to get it moving through the legislative process as soon as possible.
Washington (CNN) - Four U.S. senators have requested a formal meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to the United States this week to discuss the 2009 release of a man convicted of playing a role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The 1988 bombing killed 270 people, most of them Americans.
The Scottish government released Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds last August after doctors said he had terminal prostate cancer and just three months to live. But al-Megrahi is still alive, and news reports in recent days have questioned whether he was as sick as depicted. Questions also have been raised about whether a deal was cut to release him to protect British business interests in Libya.
Washington (CNN) - Democratic senators from two coastal states Tuesday called on President Barack Obama to reverse his call for expanded offshore oil exploration after a massive spill from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico.
"I will make it short and to the point: The president's proposal for offshore drilling is dead on arrival," Florida Sen. Bill Nelson told reporters.
Nelson and New Jersey Democrats Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg are also backing legislation that would raise the legal cap on damages oil companies must pay for oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion. BP, the company that owns the damaged well off the coast of Louisiana, must pay the full cost of cleanup - but Menendez said $75 million won't begin to compensate coastal communities for the costs the spill could inflict.
Washington (CNN) – How big of a message did Scott Brown send Tuesday by defeating a Democrat in Massachusetts for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat?
Bob Menendez, the New Jersey senator overseeing the campaign efforts of Senate Democrats, isn't even attempting to spin the big loss.
"I have no interest in sugar coating what happened in Massachusetts," Menendez said in a statement shortly after the race was called for Brown. "There is a lot of anxiety in the country right now. Americans are understandably impatient. The truth is Democrats understand the economic anger voters feel, that's in large part why we did well in 2006 and 2008."
Menendez, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Democrats "need to redouble our efforts on the economy, the need to show that our commitment to real change is as powerful as it was in 2008, and the reality that we cannot take a single thing for granted and cannot afford even a second of complacency."
Washington (CNN) - Americans from coast to coast are getting ready to enjoy the annual Veterans Day holiday this week.
For thousands of homeless men and women who once served in the armed forces, however, the day is merely another reminder of "the thin line that exists between survival and despair," one U.S. senator said Tuesday.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey noted at a Senate subcommittee hearing on the subject.
"Veterans' homelessness is a national disgrace," he said.
"American heroes (are) huddled over a heating grate in the shadow of the Washington Monument, or curled up on a bench by the war memorials on the Mall in Washington, or trying to find shelter in cities across America."
The VA has concluded that 260,000 veterans are homeless over the course of a typical year, he added. An estimated one in four homeless men or women served in the military.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The United States is rushing emergency aid to Pakistan - an initial $5 million - to help people uprooted by the fighting against extremists, according to the State Department.
The U.S. had urged the Pakistanis to launch the military action that in recent days has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their villages.
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took a longer-term view Tuesday and discussed how the United States might triple aid to Pakistan over the next five years.
The State Department said Tuesday the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan and officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development were evaluating the needs of civilians fleeing the Swat valley and surrounding regions in northwest Pakistan.
"We are of course very concerned about the well-being of civilians who are fleeing the fighting in the area," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. "And we have personnel, USAID personnel, on the ground in Pakistan, not in the Swat valley, but in Pakistan, who are directing assistance to help them."
"We've provided a substantial amount of money through the International Organization for Migration," Kelly said at his daily briefing in Washington. "This is primarily to provide tents, provide shelter and emergency relief supplies, food and medicine to the affected populations."
Kelly said the $5 million was just an initial payment.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Nearly two years before Election Day 2010, the Senate Democrat charged with expanding the party's already-strong majority sounded a bullish tone Thursday, suggesting the national mood and political environment make it nearly impossible for the GOP to pick up seats.
"The fear should be on the other side,” New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told reporters in his first briefing since assuming the post formerly held by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Menendez's unyielding optimism may seem surprising given how far out the elections remain, and the fact that the president's party historically loses seats in a midterm election, especially when that party controls both houses of Congress and the White House. The Democratic Party’s decades-long majority status in Congress ended with the first midterm of the Clinton presidency.
But Menendez noted five currently-held GOP seats are set to be vacated in 2010, most of them in traditional swing states: Florida, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, Kansas. Meanwhile, no current Democratic senators have plans to retire, though the president's Cabinet appointments have technically left Colorado, New York, Illinois, and Delaware without an incumbent Democrat.
UPDATE: With New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg removing his name from consideration to be Commerce Secretary, New Hampshire may no longer be an open seat, though Gregg later said he 'probably' would not seek reelection.