Joe Biden

The highway to Joe Biden’s overseas coverage runs via Bob Menendez

He’s hopeful, although, that issues will change below Biden — and that he might be the particular person to get Congress to fall in line.

“Past the realities of a 50-50 Senate, after we discuss overseas coverage, at any time when we will get a bipartisan foundation for one thing — perhaps not absolute, 100 members — we’re stronger on the earth,” Menendez (D-N.J.) stated in an interview. “And I consider President Biden believes that.”

The White Home is off to a tough begin, nonetheless. Menendez shortly registered his dissatisfaction final week when the Biden crew didn’t give him a heads up concerning the president’s retaliatory strikes towards Iranian installations in Syria; and he and different Democrats are already calling for extra extreme punishments towards Saudi Arabia after a U.S. intelligence report formally pinned the blame for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s homicide on the dominion’s crown prince and de facto chief, Mohammed bin Salman.

“I’m hopeful it is just a primary step and that the administration plans to take concrete measures holding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally answerable for his position on this heinous crime,” Menendez stated in a press release.

It’s not stunning, then, that there’s an ongoing White Home marketing campaign to curry favor with Menendez, who hasn’t been afraid to interrupt together with his get together and has a historical past of constructing issues tough for presidents who attempt to strong-arm Congress. Retaining Menendez within the loop might be essential for Biden’s overseas coverage successes.

“That makes all of the distinction on the earth,” Menendez stated. “It doesn’t imply that we’re going to agree one hundred pc of the time. But it surely does imply that we’ll perceive one another, the place we’re coming from — and extra seemingly than not, we’ll agree.”

That could be a contact optimistic.

The hawkish Menendez and the Biden administration are prone to disagree on a handful of key areas: the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. relations with Cuba, using U.S. navy power abroad and what to do in regard to Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan dictator.

Broadly talking, Menendez has taken a tough line on authoritarian regimes and he frowns on negotiations or offers that seem to provide any concessions to these governments. He seemingly received’t take it straightforward on the Biden crew, a lot of whose members served below Obama, as they search to salvage agreements just like the Iran deal, or reestablish ties with Cuba — relationships that have been broken below former President Donald Trump. He’ll additionally insist on larger congressional say if and when the USA makes use of navy power abroad.

The Biden crew is “proper to wish to have relationship with him. They’re going to agree with him on plenty of issues,” stated Ben Rhodes, who served as a key power behind diplomatic openings with Cuba and Iran in the course of the Obama years.

“However at a sure level, there’s a Senate view and an administration view, and except you need [Menendez] to be answerable for your Cuba coverage, your Venezuela coverage or your Iran coverage, you’re seemingly going to succeed in a degree the place it’s a must to have a tough dialog,” Rhodes stated.

A “sounding board” and an ally

Only a month into the brand new administration, Menendez informed POLITICO that Biden’s crew is already abandoning the Obama mannequin — which he stated didn’t all the time worth Congress’ position in shaping U.S. overseas coverage — and as an alternative working carefully with the Senate to coordinate and search enter.

Certainly, senators have causes to be optimistic. Biden is a former chair of the International Relations Committee, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is the previous employees director for the panel.

“You haven’t had an administration as populated with individuals who perceive the position of the Senate, and likewise how useful the Senate might be,” stated Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a senior member of the International Relations panel who’s shut with Menendez. “I feel they’ve an enormous alternative with Bob because the chair, given who the gamers are within the administration, to essentially have an excellent working relationship.”

However Kaine has been among the many loudest critics of Biden’s airstrikes in Syria final week, arguing that the president ought to have sought an authorization from Congress. Kaine has been main the cost for years to scrap the 2001 and 2002 struggle authorizations that presidents from each events have used to justify U.S. navy exercise within the Center East.

Biden’s high deputies, apparently wanting to not repeat the perceived errors of the Obama administration, are already working to maintain Menendez completely satisfied.

In an on-the-record assertion to POLITICO, Biden’s nationwide safety adviser Jake Sullivan known as Menendez “a sounding board, a supply of recommendation, and a number one voice on a very powerful nationwide safety problems with our time. My crew and I are making it a private precedence to succeed in out and have interaction usually with him and his crew, and we’ll proceed to take action.”

In a separate on-the-record assertion, Blinken promised related engagement, saying Menendez “has confirmed himself to be each principled and efficient.”

However don’t poke the Bob

Menendez’s allies say the Biden administration would cross him at its personal peril — particularly when Biden is searching for lawmakers’ assist for a serious overseas coverage initiative. Menendez’s penchant for working carefully with Republicans might be an asset to an administration that got here into workplace emphasizing bipartisanship. And in a 50-50 Senate, each vote counts.

“I’d encourage the Biden administration to choose his mind, as a result of if Bob can get onto one thing, Republicans are going to take it severely,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stated in an interview.

Menendez has vowed to conduct vigorous oversight of the Biden administration’s overseas coverage — one thing that was sorely missing below former President Donald Trump, whose administration routinely flouted Congress, ignored the legislation, and was brazenly hostile to each Democrats and Republicans.

“When issues aren’t going in addition to they need to, don’t count on Sen. Menendez to put again. I count on he’ll be fairly aggressive,” stated Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the second-highest rating Democrat on the International Relations Committee.

Presidents have lengthy sought to blunt efforts by Congress to hamstring the manager department. Cardin skilled that hostility first-hand when he led the cost in 2012 for the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russian human rights violators. Obama finally signed the invoice into legislation, however Cardin stated his White Home was “hostile towards Congress” as a result of lawmakers have been searching for to handle a problem that was historically managed by the manager department.

“There’s been, traditionally, under-performance by each administration on coping with Congress. There’s a view that they’ll do that with out us,” Cardin added.

Menendez felt that the Obama administration didn’t seek the advice of sufficient with him upfront of constructing key overseas coverage selections. Regardless of his senior rank on the committee of jurisdiction, main strikes have been typically introduced to him as a fait accompli, individuals who know Menendez stated.

“They didn’t seek the advice of sufficient on the Iran deal. They simply didn’t,” stated an individual near Menendez. “They knew it was his No. 1 situation.”

Obama aides might have had causes for this — worrying that Menendez would draw pink traces that might field of their choices. Menendez particularly is loath to look smooth on authoritarian regimes in locations like Cuba and Iran.

Even when the Biden administration retains Menendez looped in to his satisfaction, he might finally disagree with a few of their initiatives. However he won’t exit of his option to current obstacles in the event that they maintain him knowledgeable.

“I feel you will need to embody [us], so long as individuals are engaged in good religion, not simply in being obstructionists on the finish of the day,” Menendez stated.

Former Obama administration officers agreed that protecting Menendez engaged early on was essential, but in addition stated that everybody understands the implications of a Senate break up 50-50 between the 2 events. Menendez received’t wish to be seen as a spoiler for his fellow Democrats, some stated.

“I’ve each cause to consider it is going to be a cooperative effort,” one of many former officers stated. “I don’t suppose [the Biden team] thinks he’ll attempt to screw them.”

That being stated, there may be some nervousness in Biden circles concerning the Senate affirmation odds going through a few of the new president’s nominees who labored on the 2015 Iran deal.

Particularly, Biden aides are involved about Wendy Sherman, a lead negotiator on the Iran deal who’s nominated to function deputy secretary of State. Menendez will play a key position in whether or not her nomination is permitted.

That has led to hypothesis that one cause Biden has staked out a comparatively robust line on Iran for the time being — demanding Tehran return to compliance with the nuclear deal earlier than the U.S. lifts sanctions — is to assuage Menendez and different Iran hawks as they think about Sherman’s nomination.

“I do suppose they’re anxious about nominations,” one other former Obama administration official stated of the Biden crew. “That’s a part of the rationale I feel you’re seeing a more durable line on Iran proper now.”

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