In an hour-long debate over a pending vote on a resolution to expel him from Congress, U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) defiantly dared political opponents and naysayers to expel him, even while maintaining his innocence.
Following the introduction of a privileged resolution earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote for a third time on whether to expel Santos from Congress.
The resolution follows the release of a scathing report by the House Ethics Committee concluding that Santos, who also faces 23 charges of criminal wrongdoing, engaged in various ethical and financial misdeeds.
Despite the damning evidence revealed in the Ethics Committee report, some lawmakers — particularly Republicans, who are keenly aware of their party’s narrow majority in the House — have expressed reservations about ousting Santos, the first openly gay Republican to be elected to Congress as a non-incumbent.
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said he had “real reservations” about expelling Santos, saying he was concerned about the precedent it might set for other members by allowing them to be removed from office without having been criminally convicted in court, reports ABC News.
But he has also indicated he will allow the vote to go forward, saying that leadership will allow members to vote their conscience.
Some lawmakers have echoed Johnson’s concerns. Members of the far-right Freedom Caucus have come out in opposition to expelling Santos, with three — U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Clay Higgins (R-La.) and Troy Nehls (R-Texas) — speaking in his defense on the House floor, reports The New York Times.
U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) has said he’s “on the fence” about how he’ll vote. However, he told Business Insider that a “yea” vote for expulsion would be politically advantageous for him because many of his constituents dislike Santos due to his sexual orientation.
“People don’t like the fact he’s gay,” Burchett said. “And then you go down the list, then you get to all the criminal stuff. But he hasn’t been convicted, and I can’t get past that.”
Even Democrats have expressed reservations about the precedent they are setting for House members, despite leaning towards conviction. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told The Hill that he’s concerned whether “this can be a slippery slope down the road where this becomes a punishment for one’s politics, as opposed to a punishment for the kind of unethical and potentially illegal things that this man’s done.”
During debate on the floor, House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest (R-Miss.) — whom Santos criticized and called a “pussy” during a conversation on X Spaces — defended the committee’s investigation, dismissing Santos’s claims that he is the target of a political witch-hunt.
“I want to remind you, that in March of this year, George Santos promised to fully cooperate with the ethics investigation,” he said, before pointing out Santos declined to testify before the committee.
Guest also argued that Santos was given proper due process, noting that the ethics investigation is not a criminal proceeding. “Clearly, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Santos has had the opportunity to be heard,” he said.
In his own defense, Santos noted that past House members — five in total — who were expelled had either been convicted of crimes or for siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Santos argued that the Ethics Committee — the only committee split evenly between Democrats and Republicans — had opened its investigation with a result already in mind and had rushed its work to try to force him out of office.
“On what basis does this body feel that precedent must be changed for me?” Santos asked. “An American citizen, duly elected… I have been convicted of no crimes, Mr. Speaker…. I stand here today, debating for the second time, in less than a month, for the same exact reasons that were brought up last time.”
Santos suggested that many members were uncomfortable about voting to expel him. He stood by his refusal to resign despite the urging of fellow lawmakers.
“It is a predetermined necessity for some members of this body to engage in this smear campaign to destroy me,” Santos said. “I will not stand by quietly. They want me out. The people of the 3rd Congressional District of New York sent me here. If they want me out, they’re going to have to silence those people and take the hard vote.”
If two-thirds of the House, or 291 members, vote to remove Santos, he will become the sixth member in the history of the lower chamber to have been expelled by his colleagues.
Gaetz, who had previously posted on X about the double standard that allowed former U.S. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) to serve until he was convicted for stealing campaign funds, emphasized that Santos had not been convicted of any crime.
“If George Santos is convicted, he ought to be expelled,” Gaetz argued. “But until then, it is an incredibly dangerous thing for people in Washington, D.C. to substitute their judgment for the judgment of voters.”
Santos acknowledged that he might be ousted from Congress once the vote is taken on Dec. 1.
“If tomorrow, when this vote is on the floor, it is in the conscience of all of my colleagues that they believe this is a correct thing to do, so be it,” he said. “Take the vote. I am at peace.”
In what may prove to be his last action in the House, Santos introduced an expulsion resolution targeting fellow Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) for pulling a fire alarm in one of the House office buildings.
Bowman has since pleaded guilty to a charge of setting off a false fire alarm, has agreed to pay a fine of $1,000, and provide a formal apology to Capitol Police. The D.C. Attorney General’s office will not prosecute the case, and Bowman will avoid jail time, as reported by NBC News.
Responding to Santos’s expulsion resolution against him, Bowman told Axios, “No one in Congress, or anywhere in America, takes soon-to-be former Congressman George Santos seriously. This is just another meaningless stunt in his long history of cons, antics, and outright fraud.”
The expulsion resolution appears to follow a pattern of Santos lashing out at those whom he views as political enemies.
He has alluded to a longstanding feud with U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.), whose primary opponent he endorsed last year, saying an the X Spaces conversation (without mentioning LaLota’s name) that he “can’t stand” his fellow Republican, whom he believes should have no place in public service, referring to the member him a “pompous, entitled man-baby.”
Santos has also brought up domestic abuse allegations leveled at Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) on the House floor after Miller called him a “crook” in a floor speech advocating for his expulsion.
Earlier this month, he attacked Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) for voting to expel him by lobbing personal attacks against Womack’s 37-year-old son, calling him, in a now-deleted post, a “felon” and a “drug dealer,” citing James Womack’s decision to plead guilty to charges of distributing methamphetamine.
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