Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., will continue to chair the Foreign Affairs Committee despite a possible Ethics Committee probe into potentially problematic ties to a political donor.
Menendez has acknowledged he did not initially disclose free flights he took on the plane of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, a major donor. And a New York Times report on Thursday revealed at least the appearance of a quid pro quo relationship between them.
“I have confidence he did nothing wrong. But that’s what investigations are all about,” Reid said, according to a transcript of a taped interview that airse Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “He has been and will be a great member of that committee,” Reid added.
In a wide-ranging interview, Reid said he would press the Senate to act on two controversial legislative priorities of President Barack Obama: immigration overhaul and gun control. “I definitely want to do something with immigration for sure, and I want to get something done on guns,” Reid said.
He expressed confidence that the chamber would pass a broad immigration overhaul bill. But he was less certain about the shape of any gun bill that might come to the floor or what he might support, including renewal of the expired ban on assault weapons.
On immigration, “there are a few things we need,” Reid said. “No. 1 is border security, southern and northern border security.” The Senate’s immigration bill will include a “pathway to legalization” and employer sanctions that work. “It hasn’t worked in the past,” he said.
Reid also said binational gay couples should be allowed the same family preference privileges under the bill that heterosexual couples would receive, although this might make passage more difficult in the Republican-controlled House.
“If they’re looking for an excuse not to support this legislation, this is another one,” Reid said. “But the American people are past excuses. They want this legislation passed.”
Reid, a lifelong gun owner, said he didn’t previously vote in favor of banning assault weapons because it “didn’t make sense.” But, he said, if such a ban is not included in a gun bill sent to the floor by the Judiciary Committee, the ban’s lead supporter, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will be able to offer it as an amendment.
He said the Senate would “definitely have to take a look at” restrictions on high-capacity magazines. And he said he supported universal background checks. “I’m still a supporter of the Second Amendment, but you can do things like that.”
Reid declined to criticize the National Rifle Association for its staunch opposition to gun control proposals. “Just because they resist it doesn’t mean we can’t do things,” he said. “We’ll listen to them and make the right decision.”