APN Chat with US Sen. Menendez (D-NJ)
(APN) ATLANTA – US Senator Menendez (D-NJ) is “looking closely” at signing on to US Senator Russell Feingold’s (D-WI) bill to censure President Bush, Senator Menendez told Atlanta Progressive News during an in-person interview.
Menendez told Atlanta Progressive News that many US Senators are looking closely at the bill, S Res 398.
When they are satisfied after investigating the facts that the President broke the law, he is sure more Senators would sign on, Menendez said.
Last week, The Progressive Magazine reported John Kerry (D-MA) became the fourth total co-sponsor, including Feingold himself.
The other co-sponsors are Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA).
The blog Firedoglake had reported Menendez planned to sign on to the bill months ago and later retracted their report due to what the bloggers there said was conflicting information.
What does Menendez say about the lack of congressional oversight of the President?
To form investigative panels, oversight committees, and the like, requires the consent of the majority party, Menendez said.
However, the will of the American people cannot be circumvented if enough of us demand change, Menendez said.
The US Senator was in town to discuss immigration at a panel by The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO). Mr. Menendez is currently only one of three Hispanic Members of the US Senate; the other two are Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Ken Salazar (D-CO).
“Why not send the National Guard to the Canadian border, too? All the 9/11 terrorists entered our country through Canada, not Mexico,” Sen. Menendez said in response to President Bush’s call for troops on our southern border.
Agreeing with the President it is unrealistic to try deporting 12 million illegal aliens, the Senator also said the cost to do so would exceed $250 billion.
“Let’s deal with reality,” he said.
Menendez said he, like many others, supports the McCain-Kennedy bill currently being debated again before the Senate. Menendez called the legislation “tough and smart.”
“This is not amnesty. Citizenship must be earned by paying a fine, getting in line behind legal applicants, proving that you paid taxes and have no criminal record, and learning English,” he said.
Initially, a compromise proposed by Senators Martinez (R-FL) and Hagel (R-NE) was accepted in order to move the issue forward.
However, Conservative Republicans came up with another 25 amendments, one of which had the effect of making felons of undocumented workers, which stalled negotiations. In the meantime, “House Republicans remain very focused on punitive measures,” he said.
“Militarization and criminalization are not indicative of the America we want to be,” explained Menendez.
As regards the current influx of Latinos, “We enjoy the lower prices for goods and services provided by undocumented laborers but we want these human beings to remain invisible.”
Menendez introduced himself by way of a brief autobiography.
Raised in a tenement in Union City, New Jersey, he first challenged the system after being denied entry to his public high school’s honor program because his family could not afford the $200 required to buy special textbooks. He won the battle and was admitted to the program, but he was acutely aware that other students were barred for the same reason.
As a 19-year old college student, Menendez led a petition drive to reform his local school district. Later, he testified against the corrupt mayor of Union City, even though his life was threatened forcing him to wear a bulletproof vest.
The Senator considers a willingness to stand up for what you believe and for what you know is right to be the essence of public service. None of the districts that elected him to serve in both chambers of the New Jersey legislature and the US House of Representatives had a majority of Latino voters.
Menendez became the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congressional history when he was elected Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in 2002.
Menendez was appointed US Senator by Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and took office in January 2006. Mr. Corzine had previously held the same US Senate seat, but ran for Governor, after the erstwhile Governor, James McGreevey, revealed he was homosexual and also resigned.
The Senator pointed to the many pressing issues before Congress:
$300 billion has been spent in Iraq with an additional $6 billion every month while President Bush appears to be leaving formulation of an exit strategy to his successor.
The proposed budget contains a $12 trillion debt. Menendez noted the younger members of the audience would bear this burden even though they had nothing to do with accruing this debt.
Forty-five million Americans have no health insurance effectively denying them access to health care.
With so many jobs outsourced to foreign countries, our own citizens need to be at the apex of educational achievement. Yet massive cuts have been made in financial assistance to students. Pell Grants and other means of tuition funding have been slashed. His own college education would not be possible under current restrictions, Menendez said.
Latinos constitute a trillion-dollar domestic market and they are younger by a decade than other Americans. For most, their native culture has taught them to be docile and non-confrontational. Latinos need to be energized to reflect their financial muscle.
“Power is never given; it is always taken. And as Lord Acton said, ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” To counter the power of government, Menendez urged us to be an engaged citizenry who make demands on our elected officials. The number of Americans who cast votes is actually a small percentage of the entire population. Encouraging people to vote is vital to our democracy.
About the author:
Betty Clermont is a Staff Writer Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.