A group of New York lawmakers moved Wednesday to expel fellow Republican George Santos from the US House, marking a potential turning point in the saga of the freshman congressman whose alleged fraud and fabrications led to criminal charges and national notoriety.
(Bloomberg) — A group of New York lawmakers moved Wednesday to expel fellow Republican George Santos from the US House, marking a potential turning point in the saga of the freshman congressman whose alleged fraud and fabrications led to criminal charges and national notoriety.
Santos said he doesn’t know whether he would survive an expulsion vote.
“Nobody knows the answer to that,” he said.
The expulsion resolution follows a new federal indictment in New York that charged Santos with 10 new counts of credit card fraud and falsification related to his 2022 campaign fundraising. Among the new charges are allegations that Santos inflated his fundraising totals in order to defraud the Republican Party of matching funds to competitive House races.
Those behind the resolution include Representatives Anthony D’Esposito, Marc Molinaro, Mike Lawler, Nick LaLota, Brandon Williams and Nick Langworthy. Like Santos, all are freshmen Republicans from New York, elected from a more favorable congressional map last year. A seventh New York Republican, Nicole Malliotakis, said she was unaware of the resolution.
The House cannot act on the measure until a new speaker has been chosen, but then the sponsors could force a vote within two legislative days.
The move ramps up pressure on House Republican leaders to punish Santos, with whom they have taken a largely hands-off approach despite months of accusations. Democrats tried to expel Santos in May, but the House voted to refer it to the Ethics Committee on a 221-204 party line vote, giving Santos a temporary reprieve while he defended the criminal charges.
Read more: George Santos Faces New Charges Over Campaign Funding
Expulsion would require a two-thirds vote of the House, so it would need a significant number of Republican votes to pass. But with the New York delegation now pushing the issue, Republicans would almost certainly be forced to take an up-or-down vote that could add pressure on GOP members in congressional districts.
“I predict this resolution is going to catch fire,” LaLota said.
LaLota said what Santos is known to be guilty of — lying about his background and defrauding voters — should alone be enough to expel Santos. But he also said the guilty plea of his campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, would garner additional support from Republicans.
Santos’s vote could be key to electing a new speaker and passing a spending package to avoid a partial government shutdown in November.
His expulsion would narrow a Republican majority that already barely has enough votes to govern. The chamber is divided 221-212 with two vacancies, so Republicans would only be able to lose three members’ votes to pass bills without Santos.
If Santos is forced to leave Congress, his seat would be filled by a special election in the district, which leans Democratic and includes parts of Long Island and the New York City borough of Queens. There would be no primary election and each party would select their nominees.
Santos also has both Democratic and Republican challengers in next year’s election — including former Representative Tom Suozzi, a Democrat who represented much of the district in the past. Suozzi announced his candidacy on Tuesday.
Santos said earlier Wednesday that he won’t resign, won’t accept a plea deal and will continue to run for reelection. “I’m pretty much denying every last bit of charges,” Santos previously told CNN.
The 35-year-old from Long Island faces charges in two more fraud schemes stemming from his 2022 congressional campaign, in which he lied repeatedly about his work experience, education and family history. Prosecutors now say he also stole the identities of his political donors, using their credit card numbers and financial information to inflate his campaign contributions and even his own bank account.
He’s also accused of conspiring with his campaign treasurer to falsify his federal disclosures in order to conceal the source of campaign funds and claim higher fundraising totals in order to get more matching money from the Republican party.
A Santos expulsion without a criminal conviction would be unprecedented. In the past, the House has only expelled five members — three for supporting the confederacy in the Civil War, and two after being convicted of corruption.
The most recent was a 420-1 vote to oust Ohio Democrat Jim Traficant, who was convicted of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion in 2002. He tried to mount a comeback from prison, but lost to his former congressional aide, former Representative Tim Ryan.
–With assistance from Billy House.
(Updates with details about special election starting in the 13th paragraph)
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