November 29, 2023
Lawmakers Move to Force a Vote this Week on Expelling Rep. George Santos from the House
Kevin Freking READ TIME: 4 MIN.
House lawmakers from both parties moved Tuesday to force a vote this week on the expulsion of Rep. George Santos, a Republican from New York who was the subject of a scathing ethics investigation released earlier this month and is facing nearly two dozen charges in federal court.
Santos responded to the competing expulsion resolutions by taking to the House floor and asking colleagues to understand what kind of precedent it would set for him to be removed before federal charges against him are resolved. He made clear he would not be resigning beforehand.
"This expulsion vote simply undermines and underscores the precedent that we've had in this chamber," Santos said. "It starts and puts us in a new direction, a dangerous one."
Santos has survived two prior expulsion votes. But a report released by the House Ethics Committee following a monthslong investigation has prompted new outrage. The report released Nov. 16 was unsparing in its criticism, concluding that Santos "sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit."
"He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit," the report said.
Santos was critical of the committee's investigation, saying it was "incomplete, irresponsible and littered with hyperbole and littered with biased opinions."
The Ethics Committee did not make any recommendations on how to deal with Santos, saying that doing so would involve a lengthy, trial-like process that would only give Santos more opportunity to delay accountability for his actions. The committee described Santos as uncooperative in its investigation.
Instead, the committee simply submitted its report to the House. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., the panel's chairman, then followed up with his resolution to expel Santos. Guest called the evidence uncovered in the investigation "more than sufficient to warrant punishment and the most appropriate punishment is expulsion."
Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, a New York Republican whose congressional district borders Santos' district, offered the Guest-sponsored resolution on the floor Tuesday. Generally, the sponsor would offer his own measure in the House chamber, but leadership decided it was important for members of the New York delegation to be seen leading the effort.
"He (Guest) knows how important it is for us New Yorkers, especially us freshman, who ran in a state that's been historically blue. We flipped seats that are important, that made this majority," D'Esposito said. "And if we want to keep those seats, I think what we should do is rid ourselves of the stain that is George Santos."
Because the resolution is privileged, Speaker Mike Johnson must address it within two days. The vote could occur as soon as Wednesday.
The Republican effort came hours after California Rep. Robert Garcia, a Democrat, moved to force an expulsion vote on Santos. He called it a necessary step in the event Republicans failed to act in light of the Ethics Committee's findings.
"Whatever it takes to get that vote this week is what we're doing," Garcia said.
Expelling Santos would require support from at least two-thirds of House members voting. Garcia said he expects the House will reach that number easily, which would make Santos just the sixth member of the House to be removed by his colleagues, and only the third since the Civil War.
Many who voted against expulsion earlier this month said it was important to wait on the Ethics panel to complete its investigation.
"In modern times, it is House precedent that Representatives are only expelled after conviction of a felony," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said in a prepared statement. "In the matter involving Rep. Santos, the Ethics Committee has now found and documented conduct that is as serious as that of Members who on prior occasions have been expelled following felony convictions."
Lofgren voted against expulsion earlier this month. She said precedents are important to follow, but "every precedent had a first time" and now she would vote to expel.
Johnson said in Florida on Monday that he had spoken to Santos at some length over the Thanksgiving holiday and talked to him about his options, but it was not yet determined how the House would proceed.
They spoke again Tuesday. Santos told reporters that Johnson asked how he was doing and whether he had made his decision.
"I said, yes. I mean, put up or shut up at this point," Santos said.
He added that lawmakers want him to resign because they don't want to set a precedent "to their own demise in the future," a reference to expulsion before his federal case is resolved. Santos faces 23 counts, including charges that he stole the identities of donors to his campaign and then used their credit cards to ring up tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges.
Santos is also accused of falsely reporting to the Federal Elections Commission that he had loaned his campaign $500,000 when he actually hadn't given anything and had less than $8,000 in the bank. The fake loan was an attempt to convince Republican Party officials that he was a serious candidate, worth their financial support, the indictment said.
Whichever expulsion resolution is brought up for a vote this week, Garcia said the vote to expel would be bipartisan. "I think it's going to be overwhelming," he said.