WASHINGTON — Rep. George Santos, the embattled New York Republican who admitted to lying about his background and has been indicted on federal fraud charges, easily survived a bipartisan effort to expel him from the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The expulsion resolution, which was led by his fellow New York Republicans and says Santos is “not fit to serve,” needed support from a supermajority, or at least two-thirds of the voting lawmakers, to pass.
The final tally did not even crest the simple majority threshold: 179 voted in favor of expulsion, 213 against and 19 voting present. Thirty one Democrats voted with 182 Republicans against expulsion, while 24 Republicans voted with 155 Democrats to remove Santos.
A defiant Santos spoke with reporters after the House vote, saying that this not a victory for him, but rather a victory for due process. He said a vote to expel him would have been silencing my voters.
“I will continue to fight to defend myself. I will continue to serve the 3rd Congressional District of New York until the people choose to not have me,” he said, adding that his colleagues from New York did this because it was "politically expedient" for them.
Before the vote, Santos noted that the last time a House member was expelled, more than 20 years ago, that person had been criminally convicted. "Now is not the time to set dangerous precedent," he said.
Santos pleaded not guilty to a superseding federal indictment Friday and is not scheduled to stand trial until September.
Newly minted Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., expressed concerns on Fox News last week that the GOP’s minuscule four-seat majority could be further eroded with Santos’ expulsion and that the New York fabulist deserved “due process.”
Other Republicans said they first want to see how the House Ethics Committee handles the case before they decide Santos’ fate. The bipartisan panel said Tuesday it will announce the next steps in its investigation by Nov. 17. The committee has contacted roughly 40 witnesses, reviewed more than 170,000 pages of documents and authorized 37 subpoenas, its leaders said.
Santos said after Wednesday's vote that he's been cooperative with the Ethics Committee in its investigation, but also said he hadn't spoken with investigators. He also suggested said he would accept whatever decision the panel made, while adding, “I might not agree with it, but then I’ll go fight my battle in court later on.”
Freshman Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y., who authored the expulsion resolution, warned that he could force another vote to expel Santos after the Ethics Committee releases its findings.
“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,” D’Esposito told reporters Wednesday.
Asked whether he might bring up the resolution again, he replied: “Absolutely.”
Before the Santos vote, the House voted to set aside, or "table," a resolution censuring Rep Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., over her criticism and protests of Israel.
Earlier Wednesday, D’Esposito and four other New York Republicans facing tough races — Reps. Nick LaLota, Marc Molinaro, Brandon Williams and Mike Lawler — sent a letter to colleagues urging them to back the resolution.
“As Republican members from the New York Delegation, we fully support Santos’ expulsion, and ask all of our colleagues to join us in voting yes,” they wrote.
The five lawmakers also addressed several concerns from colleagues about expelling Santos. In response to cries of "Let the voters decide," the New York Republicans said voters were "robbed" of that opportunity when they were "duped" into voting for an accused fraudster. And to those concerned about risking the GOP's already slim majority, they said, "This issue is not a political one, but a moral one."
The resolution referred to the pending criminal charges against Santos 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.”
D’Esposito told reporters Wednesday before the vote: “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.
“So when George continues to argue that he wants to let the people of the 3rd Congressional District speak, they spoke last November, and they spoke in favor of someone who is not the person who has been elected to office,” he continued. “And now they’re speaking again, and it’s very clear that they don’t want him in office.”
LaLota agreed that it’s time for Santos to go.
“Let’s get the people of New York’s 3rd District some decent representation. Let's raise the bar here in the House of Representatives. Let’s hold one of our own accountable. Let’s expel George Santos," he said on the House floor Wednesday.
Congressional expulsions are extremely rare. Just five House members have been expelled in U.S. history, three of them for fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The most recent was Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, who was expelled on a near-unanimous vote in 2002 after he was convicted of federal bribery, fraud and other charges.
Santos has been under scrutiny for lying to his constituents since his election after The New York Times reported that large parts of his campaign biography were bogus. Other stories followed, including one debunking his claim to a Jewish group that he was Jewish.
In an interview with Piers Morgan, Santos insisted he never claimed to be Jewish, despite video showing he had, and he contended that he had said he was “Jew-ish” as “a party favor.”
More serious allegations followed. He was indicted in May on 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 Congress on campaign forms.
He was hit with 10 additional counts last month, including conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, wire fraud, making materially false statements to the Federal Election Commission, falsifying records submitted to obstruct the FEC, aggravated identity theft and device fraud.