Whether or not Rep. George Santos (R-NY), with his 13-count indictment, should stay in Congress is not a matter Republicans are going to have to weigh in on — for now.
House Democrats attempted to force Republicans to go on the record on Santos this week, after the freshman Republican pleaded not guilty last week to seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA) introduced a resolution yesterday that would force a floor vote on expelling Santos from the House. Democrats as the minority knew the move would be mostly symbolic as expulsions require a two-thirds supermajority to pass. A handful of House Republicans from New York have previously called for Santos to resign and one has called for Santos’ expulsion, but there was next to no hope Republicans would break from the party line and actually expel the lawmaker.
Regardless, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) gave his caucus cover to avoid weighing in entirely on Tuesday night when he told reporters that he was calling on the “Ethics Committee to move rapidly on this,” referencing the panel’s investigation into Santos and whether he “engaged in unlawful activity” during his successful campaign for Congress last year. Historically, these kinds of investigations are not done “rapidly.”
But McCarthy’s call out was successful in that it gave Republicans, including those from New York who have been vocal about how much Santos needs to exit, a temporary out as the party clings to its barely there majority. It’s been widely speculated that if Santos were expelled or decided to resign, there’s a good chance a Democrat could snatch his seat. Santos himself has been a mostly loyal foot soldier to McCarthy who has faced problem after problem in his time before and after becoming speaker in wielding control over the far-right wing of the party.
In the end, Republicans filed a motion to refer the expulsion resolution to the House Ethics Committee and that passed mostly along party lines, 221-204, with seven members, mostly Democrats on the ethics panel, voting “present.”
A Santos-ian detail: Santos himself voted in favor of referring his own expulsion to the Ethics Committee instead of voting present.
Democrats decried the move during a press conference as voting was underway, calling out their colleagues’ cowardice.
“The Ethics Committee should not be a graveyard where accountability goes to die,” New York Democrat Ritchie Torres said.
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