Indicted Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has been a long-time advocate of key public finance issues and is so far resisting calls to resign his seat in Congress.
Menendez, indicted last week on federal bribery charges, has already stepped aside as chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, but his influence on financial legislation could continue as the case unfolds.
Menendez has a long history of activity in issues affecting the public finance community including support for the SAFER Banking Act to overhaul marijuana-related banking, the removal of the SALT deduction cap, and emergency measures related to COVID-19.
His continued presence in the Senate may affect pending financial legislation including the SAFER Bank Act which he co-sponsored last week. The bill allows banks and credit unions to serve cannabis businesses and their workers in states where cannabis is legal.
“This deal will empower small business owners by granting them the ability to access the banking system, and will strengthen communities in New Jersey and across the nation,” said Menendez in a statement.
The legislation has been bouncing around in both sides of the Capitol since 2013 and is supported by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The Menendez legacy and influence also includes a long-time opposition to the current cap on state and local tax deductions. In 2021 he teamed up with Sen. Bernie Sanders D-Vt., on a proposal that would have repealed the cap for middle-class families.
“We are convinced any SALT relief should be targeted to the families that need it most,” he said at the time. ”We are optimistic we can reach an agreement soon to solve this issue without going against President Biden’s pledge on not raising taxes to families making under $400K a year.”
The SALT deduction was capped at $10,000 as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Critics of the policy claim the law is unfair for residents of high tax states while muni issuers say the cap infringes on their sovereign ability to levy future taxes.
Menendez has also has a hand on the rudder related to Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy recovery. In 2016 he attempted to amend a House bill that he said would have helped level the playing field between residents of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Oversight Board that was created by PROMESA legislation, that Menendez opposed.
A muni lobbyist who asked not to be identified said Menendez was a valuable supporter of the municipal liquidity facility that backstopped the muni market during the height of the pandemic, and added that losing a lawmaker so familiar with muni issues would be a blow.
“You do hate to lose an advocate who understands your issues,” the lobbyist said.
In addition to the Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez is a senior member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment.
He’s a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee and serves on the Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight. From 2017-2022 the Securities & Investment Industry has been among the top three contributors to Menendez political campaigns.
The current indictment follows a 2015, 14-count corruption indictment also centered on accusations of bribery involving student visas, flights, on private jets and comped hotel stays. The Justice Department eventually dropped the case after the trial ended with a hung jury.