Sen. Bob Menendez Offers Foreign Affairs Oversight Reforms

Sen. Bob Menendez recently laid out reform proposals in the wake of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump’s conduct regarding Ukraine.

A ranking member or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez said Congress must learn the lesson from the Ukraine scandal to better serve as a check to its co-equal branch on the office of the President at remarks delivered at the Brookings Institution.

“But even if this President has yet to learn, we have learned we must bolster our oversight tools and curb the vulnerabilities exploited by this President,” he declared. “We have learned we cannot rely on norms to perform our oversight role, because all it takes is one president to shred them. Simply put, we’ve learned it is time for Congress to strengthen its hand.”

The New Jersey senator plans to introduce a series of proposals to respond to the abuses of power, including the Marie Yovanovitch Act ensuring the U.S. government supports and protects career officials and diplomats. 

Reform Proposals

In warning about the sense of urgency for enacting his proposed reforms, Menendez noted: “Before we find ourselves talking about the next Ukraine scandal, before we are bemoaning yet another set of inexcusable actions, I suggest we do something now.” Those actions include:

  • Ban Foreign Solicitation, making it against the law for any U.S. government official to solicit foreign action for personal or political benefit and require anyone aware of such an attempt to report it to Congress, with consequences for failing to comply.
  • Strengthen Congress’s Hand by imposing new penalties for the executive branch’s failure to comply with congressional requests and expedite judicial review for resolving congressional-executive disputes.
  • Better Transparency by requiring agencies to tell Congress if foreign assistance is not spent as directed by Congress, within clear time frames and with clear consequences for failing to do so.
  • Reduce Potential for Conflicts by Private Actors, including setting up new guardrails to ensure that U.S. foreign policy occurs via official channels, not private ones.
  • Improve Whistleblower Protections, such as strengthening protections and making whistleblower protection training mandatory for all State Department employees.
  • Protect Public Servants, making sure to root out corrosive rhetoric used to disparage non-partisan public servants, who serve our country and the Constitution.

Ukraine Commitment 

Additionally, Menendez laid out a vision to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Ukraine, a key ally in fighting Russia. Building on his prior successful sanctions on Russia for its unjustified aggression, the Congress must immediately send a unified, bipartisan message that Ukraine will remain a top priority through increased military and development assistance, stated the senator.

“We stand with Ukraine against Russian aggression because it is in our national interest to do so. It is a defense of our democratic values and everything that we have fought for since the end of World War II,” said Menendez.

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