Rep. George Santos Survives Effort to Expel From House, Still Faces Ethics Report
Rep. George Santos survives a vote to expel him from the House as Republicans and some Democrats withhold punishment pending his trial and ethics investigation.
In a recent vote, Rep. George Santos narrowly avoided expulsion from the House of Representatives as most Republicans and 31 Democrats chose to withhold punishment until his criminal trial and a House Ethics Committee investigation are completed. The push to remove Santos from the House was led by his fellow New York Republicans, who are eager to distance themselves from a colleague known for fabricating his life story and facing accusations of stealing from donors, lying to Congress, and fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits.
Despite the efforts of his opponents, the resolution to expel Santos failed to secure the necessary two-thirds vote. Supporters of expulsion could not even secure a simple majority, with the final vote tallying 179 votes for expulsion and 213 against. To succeed, a significant number of Republican lawmakers would have had to break ranks with newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson, who has expressed his belief that Santos deserves his day in court. Johnson has also stated that expelling members based on charges or accusations of wrongdoing is problematic.
Some Democrats also voiced concerns about preempting the ongoing Ethics Committee investigation. The committee issued a rare memo the day before the vote, revealing the extensive nature of its investigation, including contact with 40 witnesses and the issuance of 37 subpoenas. The committee stated that the next steps of the investigation would be announced by November 17.
Santos expressed gratitude for the support he received, stating that he believes due process is still alive and that many colleagues on both sides of the aisle understand this. Expulsion from the House is a rare occurrence, with only five members in history having been expelled, three during the Civil War and two after being convicted of public corruption charges. It would be unprecedented for the House to expel Santos before the resolution of his federal court case.
Despite the failed expulsion vote, some Republicans maintain that Santos should be removed from Congress. Rep. Steve Womack believes in due process but argues that Santos misrepresented himself to New York voters, and they would not have elected him if they had known the truth about him. Womack asserts that the Congress needs to take action now to avoid the prolonged "Santos charade" throughout the 2024 election cycle.
The debate on whether to expel Santos took place exclusively among members of the New York congressional delegation. Republican representatives Anthony D'Esposito, Nick LaLota, and Mike Lawler presented their case for expulsion, describing Santos as a stain on the institution and unfit to serve his constituents. Santos, on the other hand, appealed to lawmakers to refrain from expulsion, arguing that passing judgment without due process would foster mistrust.
During the debate, the only Democratic lawmaker to speak was Rep. Dan Goldman, who criticized the New York Republicans for leading the expulsion effort. He claimed that they only cared about their reelection and were not concerned with integrity, morality, or the reputation of the institution. Goldman argued that Santos should have been expelled in May when Democrats initially brought forward an expulsion resolution.
The New York Republicans outlined the charges against Santos in their expulsion resolution, highlighting the serious financial fraud allegations he faces in federal court. They accused him of deceiving voters about his background and concluded that he is unfit to serve as a United States Representative. They argued that failing to expel Santos for his lies and fraud would cause more damage to the institution than expelling him before formal charges and a guilty verdict.
In May, Republicans, under then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, avoided the Democratic-led effort to expel Santos. While 204 Democrats voted against referring the matter to the House Ethics Committee, House Republicans stood united in delaying action on Santos' conduct. Speaker Mike Johnson has made it clear that he would prefer not to remove Santos from Congress at this point, citing due process and the lack of a guilty verdict.
Democrats were also divided on the expulsion vote, with some like Rep. Chrissy Houlahan calling it a complicated decision. Houlahan expressed a desire to wait for the Ethics Committee's findings before making a final judgment. Rep. Marc Molinaro, a New York Republican who supported expulsion, stated that the delegation would likely raise the issue again once the Ethics Committee releases its investigation report.
Santos is currently facing 23 charges in federal court, with his trial scheduled for September next year. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. In a separate vote on Wednesday evening, the House rejected an effort to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, and Democrats decided against pursuing a censure of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia.