But expelling Menendez — even if he is convicted of a felony — might not be that easy.
Republicans need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to agree to expel a member, which means they would need Democratic votes. With partisan tensions so high — Democrats are still bitter that Republicans denied President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland the seat last year, among a host of other issues — they are in no mood to cooperate with the GOP majority.
In addition, New Jersey voters are about to pick a new governor. Democrat Phil Murphy is leading in the polls. If Murphy wins and takes office in January, he could replace Menendez with a Democrat, so the party would have incentive to delay rather than allow Christie to choose a new senator.
Democrats might even support Menendez staying in office even if Murphy takes over as governor. In private, several Democratic senators and aides said they’re not feeling any political pressure yet to cut ties to Menendez if he’s convicted. That might change if he’s found guilty, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Donald Trump — joined by editorial pages across the country — turn up the heat on them. But for now, Democrats remain committed to supporting Menendez through at least January, if not longer.