WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. George Santos faces a vote Wednesday evening to expel him from the House as part of an effort led by fellow New York Republicans who are anxious to distance themselves from a colleague infamous for fabricating his life story and accused of stealing from donors, lying to Congress and receiving unemployment benefits he did not deserve.
To succeed, their resolution needs the support of at least two-thirds of lawmakers, meaning numerous Republican lawmakers would have to break ranks with newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson, who has said Santos should get his day in court. Johnson, R-La., also recently told Fox News that if Congress is going to expel members because they are charged with a crime or accused of wrongdoing, “that’s a problem.”
Congress has rarely resorted to the most extreme punishment at its disposal. The House has expelled only five members in its history — three during the Civil War and two after their convictions on public corruption charges. It would be groundbreaking for the House to kick out Santos before his case in federal court is resolved.
Some Republicans, however, say they have seen enough of Santos and will support the expulsion effort.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., said he believes in due process, but also thinks Santos misrepresented himself to New York voters and they never would have elected him if they had “known the true George Santos.”
“We don’t need the Santos charade all the way through the 2024 election cycle. I think the Congress needs to take action now,” Womack said.
Santos has called the expulsion campaign a political tactic and has pledged to keep fighting to stay in Congress.
“I will not beg for my constitutional rights,” he said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “I will let my colleagues make their decision without my interference.”
The New York lawmakers pushing the expulsion resolution have said they expect a motion will be made to table the measure. Doing so requires only a simple majority to pass, but the New Yorkers believe that will not happen, therefore allowing for the expulsion vote to proceed.
“He made up this whole story,” Rep. Nick LaLota said of Santos last week. “He’s admitted that he’s made up his whole story. That is basis enough for an expulsion. You don’t get to come here based on lying to all your voters.”
In May, Republicans under then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California sidestepped a Democratic-led effort to expel Santos. While 204 Democrats voted against a motion to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee, House Republicans stood unified behind the effort that delayed action on Santos’ conduct.
Johnson, who took the speaker’s gavel last week, has made it clear he would prefer not to oust Santos at this point, despite the many charges against the congressman, as Johnson struggles to control a very slim majority.
The committee issued a statement Monday promising to release an update on the investigation by Nov. 17. The statement described a thorough investigation into Santos, and sent a clear signal to rank-and-file Republicans who may be reluctant to expel one of their own before the courts and the committee have weighed in.
“He’s only been charged. He hasn’t been found guilty of anything. We have due process in America,” said GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who opposes the expulsion resolution.
But in a sign that not everyone in GOP leadership shares that view, the third-ranking Republican, Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, joined the New York Republicans on the floor last week when they introduced the resolution.
Democrats also could be more divided than they were during the previous expulsion effort against Santos. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., called it a complicated vote because she would like to wait for the committee to release its findings first. She said she was “most likely” to vote to table the expulsion resolution.
“If there is a report forthcoming, I think we owe it to ourselves to give ourselves a couple of weeks so that we are all operating off the same information,” she said.
Rep. Mike Lawler, another New York Republican bringing the resolution, has argued that the House now has enough evidence to expel Santos, even if Santos’ criminal trial has not concluded. Lawler pointed to a guilty plea that the ex-treasurer for Santos made for a fraud conspiracy charge related to Santos’ campaign.
“So you have now a conviction in this case, that very clearly lays out what he did and how he did it,” Lawler said.
Santos faces 23 charges in federal court. His trial has been scheduled for September next year. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Also on Wednesday evening, the House is expected to consider resolutions to censure Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.