U.S. Rep. George Santos will remain in Congress after a vote to expel him from the U.S. House of Representatives failed to reach the required threshold.
The expulsion resolution, which was introduced by Santos’s fellow first-term New York Republicans and declared Santos “not fit to serve” in Congress, needed the votes of at least two-thirds of members of the House to pass.
The vote failed, with only 179 members — 155 Democrats and 24 Republicans — voting to expel Santos, while 213 members — 31 Democrats and 182 Republicans — voted against the resolution. Four Republicans and 15 Democrats voted “present,” while 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats did not vote.
It also cited the recent guilty plea by Nancy Marks to charges of falsifying campaign finance reports. Marks was the former treasurer for Santos’s congressional campaign.
It also cited Santos’s history of fabrications — many to which he has admitted publicly — regarding his professional and personal background, including his heritage, his educational and work history, and his “history of misrepresenting his and his family’s connections to major events, including the Holocaust, Sept. 11th terrorist attacks and the Pulse nightclub shooting.”
Santos has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against him and is scheduled to be tried next September.
He argued he has not been convicted of those charges, and accused members voting to expel him of denying him due process.
“One can’t say that they are pro-Constitution and at the same time act as judge, jury, and executioner. Where is the consistency?” Santos said of his critics during a floor speech ahead of the vote.
Santos noted that the last time a House member was expelled, more than 20 years ago, that person — U.S. Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) — had been convicted of bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion.
In the history of the House of Representatives, only five members have ever been expelled — including three for supporting the Confederacy in 1861, meaning it’s been 162 years since a person who was not convicted of wrongdoing in a court of law was removed from the body.
Santos warned that prematurely voting to expel a member would set a “dangerous precedent.”
Santos — who previously made veiled threats promising to ruin the careers of Republicans who voted to expel him — took shots at some of the leaders behind the resolution, including his fellow New Yorkers.
“If you look at the reputation of some of these gentlemen, you’ll understand why it’s so — it’s like water off a duck’s back coming from them,” Santos said. “If it were coming from any higher ground, that would be a lot more offensive. But coming from who it’s coming from. It’s almost laughable.”
U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), a former public defender, raised due process concerns over the resolution, noting that the House Ethics Committee, which has been investigating allegations of financial and ethical wrongdoing made against Santos, had not yet released its findings.
“What’s the point of having the Ethics Committee, if you don’t let them do their work?” Armstrong said before the vote. He added that while he believed Santos should resign from Congress, he was wary of removing a member without seeing a conviction in court or a finding of wrongdoing by the Ethics Committee, saying that such votes become more political and personal in nature.
According to The New York Times, Armstrong also noted that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) had publicly expressed concerns about moving forward with expulsion at this time — something that would likely influence how rank-and-file members, especially Republicans, would view the vote.
The GOP currently enjoys a narrow four-seat majority in the House, and the loss of Santos would require Republican members to vote practically in lockstep just to pass the party’s legislative agenda.
The House Ethics Committee announced on Tuesday that it would reveal the next steps in its investigation of Santos by November 17.
According to NBC News, the committee has contacted about 40 witnesses, reviewed more than 170,000 pages of documents, and authorized 37 subpoenas as it determines the credibility of the allegations against the openly gay New York Republican.
But U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), the author of the expulsion resolution, stood by the decision to bring it to the floor.
“It’s a time in American history where the American people — especially over the last three weeks — are looking at this place saying, ‘They should be held to a higher standard.’ And we have someone who’s a complete fraud, who lied his way to the House of Representatives, who lied about his education, lied about his faith, lied about the fact that his family was victims of 9/11, of the Holocaust,” he said.
D’Esposito and his fellow New York Republicans — at least four of whom face re-election in districts where a majority of voters backed President Joe Biden in 2020 — also argued that Santos had “duped” voters by misrepresenting himself, thereby denying them the chance to make a fully-informed decision about whether Santos should be representing them.
Santos, who is seeking re-election, has argued that voters will ultimately re-elect him based on his conservative principles and stances, and will be more forgiving of his past fabrications.
But he faces an uphill battle, as his campaign has been losing money as it refunds more donations than it is taking in, according to Politico, and also faces a number of primary challengers next year.
Local and national Republicans have indicated they will not back him in that primary.
Even should Santos emerge victorious from the primary, New York Democrats will be eagerly awaiting to pounce on his alleged wrongdoing and gin up resentment among the district’s voters, a majority of whom backed President Biden over former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
D’Esposito also noted that he retains the option of introducing another resolution to expel Santos after the Ethics Committee releases its findings.
Asked by reporters about whether he’d bring up the expulsion resolution again — particularly if the Ethics Committee finds wrongdoing — D’Esposito replied, “Absolutely…. In two weeks, we will read the ethics report, and, you know, you don’t need to be a retired New York City detective to understand that the report is probably not going to be good, and we’ll go from there.”
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