Menendez Will Leave Trial to Vote Against Graham-Cassidy if Necessary

Sen. Robert Menendez. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez on Friday promised to be present for next week’s Senate vote on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, the most recent Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even if it means stepping away from his ongoing federal corruption trial.

“No matter what personal sacrifice I will face, when Republicans bring the bill to the Senate floor I will be there to vote against it and resist,” Menendez said outside of Newark City Hall, just steps from the federal courthouse where his trial is being argued on Mondays through Thursdays. Menendez has is facing allegations that he accepted bribes and gifts in exchange for political favors, but he maintains his innocence.

Last month, Menendez’s attorneys filed a motion asking that the trial be put on pause if there were “critical votes” in the Senate. But that motion was denied.

Critics of the GOP Senate health bill, which is sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), say it would eliminate health care coverage for the most vulnerable populations. New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal think tank, said Friday that the new health care legislation could impact as many as two million New Jersey residents, 900,000 of whom would “likely lose their coverage entirely.”

Unlike other Republican governors, Gov. Chris Christie expanded Medicaid in 2013 under the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare. The Graham-Cassidy bill would scale back that Medicaid expansion, and New Jersey would lose $5 million in federal funds if the bill becomes law, according to NJPP.

Christie came out against the Graham-Cassidy bill earlier this week because of the billions of dollars the state would lose in federal funding.

“I oppose Graham-Cassidy because it is too injurious to the people of New Jersey,” Christie said this week. “There are other ways that they could achieve what I think is an important thing to achieve, which is block granting, without tying themselves into knots trying to help the people who made a decision, I think politically made a decision for various reasons, not to expand.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he plans to put the Graham-Cassidy bill up for a vote next week. Menendez spokesman Steven Sandberg told Observer this week that Menendez would “weigh very heavily if his vote will be determinative” if the vote ends up conflicting with the senator’s trial schedule. The vote has not yet been scheduled.

The Graham-Cassidy bill is the third Republican effort since President Trump’s inauguration to repeal of the ACA. Menendez has been strongly opposed to all iterations of a health care replacement, instead urging members of Congress to work together to fix the shortfalls of the current legislation.

“Many of us Democrats hoped our Republican colleagues would give bipartisanship a try. They didn’t,” Menendez said. “It turns out Republicans never had any intentions of solving the problems Americans face with our health care system, they just want to bring old problems back from the dead.”

The Senate has until Sept. 30 to pass the legislation with a simple majority.

Menendez Will Leave Trial to Vote Against Graham-Cassidy if Necessary