House Resolution To Expel Santos Sent For Review By Ethics Committee

The House postponed a vote on whether Rep. George Santos (R-NY) should be removed from Congress on Wednesday, referring an expulsion resolution to the Ethics Committee and sparing Republican lawmakers from having to weigh in directly on the issue.

The chamber voted 221-204-7 to refer the resolution to the Ethics panel, which has been probing Santos since March amid rising doubts about his history and finances.

The board is investigating whether he participated in illegal conduct during his 2022 campaign and failed to submit evidence to the House properly.

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All five Democrats on the Ethics Committee — Susan Wild (Pa.), Glenn Ivey (Md.), Veronica Escobar (Texas), Deborah Ross (N.C.), and Mark DeSaulnier (Calif.) — voted present, as did Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.). The remaining votes were cast along partisan lines.

Santos voted with Republicans to refer the resolution to the Ethics Committee, telling reporters that he did so “because there’s a process — in this country, everybody is innocent until proven guilty.” He expressed gratitude to the leadership “for allowing this procedure.”

The congressman reiterated that he has complied with the panel and would continue to do so, and that if the committee ultimately recommends that he quit, he will do so.

“Of course,” Santos replied when asked if he would willingly step down if the panel recommended it. “I’m not going to chain myself here.” That is a different story if the Ethics Committee makes that recommendation.”

“I am confident I will fight to clear my name,” he remarked.

Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) presented the expulsion resolution in February. Still, it was brought to the floor as a privileged resolution on Tuesday, over a week after Santos was charged on federal charges, compelling Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to decide on the matter within two legislative days.

McCarthy ultimately chose to hold a vote on referring the proposal to the Ethics Committee for examination, which only required a simple majority vote.

He could have moved to table the bill, which would also require half-chamber support, or put the expulsion resolution to the floor for a vote, requiring a two-thirds majority.

House Resolution To Expel Santos Sent For Review By Ethics Committee

“I think the indictment of George Santos is very serious,” McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m also aware you’re presumed innocent unless proven guilty in America. But I’m not going to sit here and wait. So I’d like to transfer this to the Ethics section.”

He said he wanted the Ethics Committee to look into the situation “quickly.” McCarthy has notably refrained from calling Santos to quit or be expelled, emphasizing the need to allow the judicial process to play out.

The New York Republican has been a crucial vote in the GOP conference’s slim majority, assisting McCarthy in achieving legislative victories.

Democrats, on the other hand, slammed McCarthy’s action as a “cop-out” because the Ethics Committee was already investigating Santos.

“It’s a complete cop-out to have a redundant motion to refer a resolution to an Ethics Committee that is already investigating this,” said Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), who filed an ethics complaint against Santos earlier this year.

“We should not refer this matter to the Ethics Committee, because this resolution is already there,” Garcia said on Wednesday. “Now, every Republican should join us in defending this body and expelling George Santos.”

As Santos was addressing the press on the steps of the Capitol following the vote, Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) started yelling that the congressman should resign or be removed from Congress.

“I resign… “Save yourself and maintain your dignity,” Bowman advised. “Better is required for New Yorkers.”

“You gotta go, man,” Ocasio-Cortez continued.

“I can’t continue to address you guys because there’s a deranged member here,” Santos told reporters.

“Republicans, kick him out, c’mon,” Bowman exclaimed.

McCarthy’s choice to direct the motion to the Ethics Committee rather than bring it to the floor created a sort of exit strategy for some Republicans, particularly those in the New York delegation, allowing them to vote with the party while opposing Santos’s time in the House.

Reps. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), Marc Molinaro (R-NY), and Nick LaLota (R-NY) indicated earlier this year that they favored expulsion for the New York Republican, and Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) joined the chorus after Santos’ arraignment last week.

On Wednesday, all four decided to refer the case to the Ethics Committee.

“I will vote to begin the process of removing George Santos from this sacred institution by formally referring his case to the House Ethics Committee,” said Molinaro, an expulsion supporter, in a statement issued shortly before the vote.

“George Santos should not serve in Congress.” He has irreparably damaged his constituents’ and colleagues’ trust. I anticipate the Ethics Committee will conduct a speedy and thorough investigation.”

Other New York Republicans, such as Rep. Mike Lawler, who has called for Santos to retire but not be expelled, have defended referring the case to the Ethics Committee, pointing out that similar indictment cases in recent memory have not resulted in immediate expulsion.

“Can any of you point to a single case where someone was expelled from Congress without a conviction or a referral [from the Ethics Committee]?” he said, to silence.

“Right. So, if the standard is now: A member of Congress lies — and, by the way, he’s done a lot of lying but if that’s standard, many people will be expelled very soon.”

Only five members of the House have ever been expelled, three of them in 1861. Former Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) was recently dismissed after being convicted of ten federal crimes, including bribery and racketeering.

Aside from political factors, Lawler pointed out a pragmatic explanation for the GOP’s referral strategy: they simply do not have the votes to remove Santos outright. That feat would necessitate the support of two-thirds of the chamber.

“The bottom line is that there aren’t enough votes to expel him,” Lawler said. “You need two-thirds of the vote to expel him.”

So, rather than voting ‘no’ or voting to table it, we’re sending it to Ethics so that the Ethics Committee can quickly return with a genuine referral, allowing members of Congress to vote him out.

It’s not difficult to understand. There is a procedure at work here. For political reasons, the Democrats have chosen to avoid that procedure.”

D’Esposito, who moved to refer the measure to the Ethics committee, struck a similar tone.

“I was one of the first members of this body to call on the subject of this resolution to resign, and I personally support the expulsion of this individual from this House.”

“Unfortunately, I understand that we do not currently have the two-thirds support from members of this House to expel that individual,” he said on the House floor before the vote Wednesday.

“I believe this individual is a blot on this institution, a blot on New York, a blot on Long Island, and a blot on the beloved Nassau County.”

We believe this resolution should be referred to the Committee on Ethics to ensure a complete and timely examination of this subject. “I am convinced this is the quickest way to rid the House of Representatives of this blight on government,” he added.

Santos had been controversial even before he was sworn into the House when The New York Times published a blockbuster piece exposing troubling portions of his past. Later, he acknowledged “embellishing” his resume.

Last Monday, Santos was accused of 13 federal offenses, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making substantially false representations to the House of Representatives.

He is accused of misleading campaign donors, getting COVID-19 unemployment payments falsely, and providing incorrect information on financial disclosure forms.

The congressman has pleaded not guilty and has stated that he has no intention of resigning. Last Monday, Santos negotiated an arrangement with Brazilian prosecutors to avoid prosecution concerning an event in 2008.

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