WASHINGTON -- New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez would assume the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if Sen. John Kerry joins the Obama administration, a Senate Democratic source said this week, confirming the succession plan that could elevate Menendez to newfound power.
Kerry currently chairs the committee, but is seen as a possible choice to become Obama’s next secretary of state (the other person most often cited as a possible nominee, U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, faces intense opposition from Senate Republicans). Kerry has also been mentioned as a potential defense secretary. In either case, his departure would create a vacancy, and Senate President Harry Reid would name Menendez to fill the seat, the Senate source said.
Menendez is currently the third-ranking Democrat on the committee, but Sen. Barbara Boxer already chairs the environment committee, and Sen. Dick Durbin is the assistant majority leader, making him the number two Democrat in the Senate. Senators typically have just one leadership post, so Menendez would be tapped to chair the panel.
Many outlets, including the Inquirer, have reported that Menendez is likely to lead the committee if Kerry leaves the Senate. The source adds a measure of confirmation from within Washington.
Asked last month about the possibility of succeeding Kerry, Menendez wouldn’t speculate.
“It’s all based upon whether there’s a vacancy,” he told the Inquirer. “It would be presumptuous for me to talk about any opportunity that doesn’t even exist right now.”