U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland was named chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.
He replaces Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to federal charges accusing him of pocketing bribes of cash and gold bars in exchange for wielding his political influence to secretly advance Egyptian interests and do favors for local businessmen. Menendez was forced to step down as chairman of the committee and is facing increasing calls for his resignation.
Cardin is a Democrat who has served on the Foreign Relations Committee ever since he joined the Senate in 2007. He’s also co-chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
In a statement, Cardin said he’s accepting the position “with great humility and appreciation” to his colleagues and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Democracy and freedom are being tested around the world,” Cardin said in his statement. “America’s national security, which depends on effective diplomacy and international development, as well as a strong defense, is facing challenges that require focused and responsible leadership in Congress to work with the White House on behalf of the American people.”
Cardin pledged to work in a bipartisan fashion with the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, and other Republicans.
“I intend to continue my longstanding work to ensure that human rights, anti-corruption and good governance are woven into America’s foreign policy,” Cardin said. “We have much work ahead of us.”
Cardin takes over the chairmanship as he begins the final stretch of his tenure in the U.S. Senate. Earlier this year, Cardin announced he would not run for reelection in 2024, though he promised to continue to work in public service in some fashion.
Cardin was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1966. He rose to become the youngest speaker of the House of Delegates, and later was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and then the U.S. Senate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.