Tuesday's indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez on federal corruption charges silences a rare and vocal Democratic critic of the Obama administration's foreign policy stance as opposition mounts to an emerging nuclear deal with Iran.
In response to the charges filed against him Wednesday, Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would relinquish his prominent perch on the panel.
The move, coupled with the charges filed against him, essentially strips him of much of his leadership role in the congressional debate over whether to pass Iran-centered legislation.
The indictment of Menendez, of New Jersey, calls into question the future of a critical bill he co-authored with Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that would require congressional approval of the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions against Iran.
Corker and Senate Republican leaders had signaled they plan to take up the measure, known as the Corker-Menendez legislation, some time after lawmakers return from the Easter recess in mid-April.
The Iran legislation is considered a top priority for Republicans who run the Senate and it has attracted enough Democratic support to pass the chamber and perhaps stave off President Obama's likely veto.
In addition to Menendez, seven other Democrats are original co-sponsors of the legislation, including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the number-three Democrat in line to succeed retiring Minority Leader Harry Reid.
One former top Republican Senate aide said even though Democratic support is strong, lawmakers may have to take Menendez's name off the bill.
"It is probably a good idea to change the name because of the indictment," Ron Bonjean, who is now a political consultant, told the Washington Examiner. "But that may take some hand holding and soothing a very bruised ego."
Corker issued a statement distancing himself from knowledge of the charges against Menendez.
"While I have no knowledge of the judicial matters at hand, I appreciate his bipartisan work on foreign relations issues and expect he will continue to play a constructive role," Corker said.
The indictment comes after Menendez used his position on the panel to slam a string of Obama administration moves, most recently the emerging nuclear deal administration officials are struggling to secure with Iran.
"The more I hear from the administration … the more it sounds like talking points coming out of Tehran," Menendez said in a January hearing on the nuclear talks.
Menendez's barbs against the Iran deal are hardly the first time the New Jersey senator has been critical of Obama's foreign policy posture.
In March, Menendez continued to pressure the Obama administration to send lethal weapons to Ukraine to help the country fend off Russian encroachment.
Three months earlier, Menendez slammed Obama's December decision to lift travel restrictions and restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, where his parents were born and where the Castro brothers still run a dictatorship accused of major human rights abuses.
"President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government," Menendez said at the time.
Menendez has also criticized the Obama administration for calling North Korea's cyber attack against Sony Pictures "cybervandalism."
"Vandalism is when you break a window," Menendez said on CNN's State of the Union. "Terrorism is when you destroy a building. And what happened here is that North Korea landed a virtual bomb on Sony's parking lot."
Menendez and Obama appeared to have a strained relationship at best and have sparred behind closed doors over, according to media reports.
At the Senate Democrats's annual retreat in January, Menendez told Obama he took "personal offense," to Obama's assertion that lawmakers were being pressured by donors to take up an Iran sanctions bill, which he opposes.
The exchange, reported in the New York Times, was characterized by one Democratic lawmaker as "forceful."
Earlier this month, Republicans slammed the administration for leaking word of a forthcoming indictment of Menendez, noting it came shortly after Menendez delivered an impassioned speech against the emerging nuclear deal at American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Several GOP lawmakers said they wondered if the Obama administration was seeking retribution against Menendez, through the Justice Department.
"I don't know what happened," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said. "But it doesn't smell right."