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U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez, left, and Cory Booker in 2018.

Adorable relationship between Menendez, Booker breaks tradition

Torricelli once threatened to cut Lautenberg’s balls off

By David Wildstein, March 29 2018 12:39 pm

The bromance between New Jersey’s two United States Senators is sugary and unusual in a state where Senators classically despise each other – often in a very public way.

These days, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker are joined at the hip in what insiders say is a genuine friendship.  They have gotten along well since Booker arrived in Washington in late 2013, and the relationship expanded exponentially during Menendez’s legal battles.  Booker accompanied Menendez in court and testified on his behalf, cementing a permanent bond between the two.

That’s not how it usually works in New Jersey.

Menendez and Frank Lautenberg didn’t get along. The bickered over some federal appointments – Lautenberg thought he should get them all and Menendez believed he was entitled to a crumb or too. And the feud between Lautenberg and Bob Torricelli was legendary.  The classic story is that time Torricelli lost it at a Senate Democratic caucus meeting and told Lautenberg, “I’m going to cut your balls off.”  That was the public statement – you can be sure what was said in private was much worse.

It wasn’t just Menendez and Lautenberg personally.  Their staffs didn’t get along either.  Now they do.  Michael Soliman and Mo Butler, who were state directors under Menendez and Booker, respectively, are longtime friends and now work together at Mercury Public Affairs.

Lautenberg and Bill Bradley didn’t particularly like each other – Lautenberg was jealous of Bradley’s “luster” – his word, not mine.   And Bradley got along with Harrison Williams until he didn’t: Williams, who had remained in the U.S. Senate despite his conviction in the Abscam scandal, resigned the day after Bradley announced that he would vote to expel him.

So the last time the two U.S. Senators from New Jersey got along – not including caretakers Nicholas Brady and Jeff Chiesa — was in forty years ago.  Williams, a Democrat, and Republican Clifford Case, a Republican, served together for twenty years.  They forged what was considered a decent working relationship, acknowledging that federal patronage went through the Senator whose party won the White House.  They weren’t too dissimilar public policy, and neither attacked the other – even during political campaigns.

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