By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A New York state Republican on Thursday made a privileged motion in the U.S. House of Representatives to expel indicted fellow Republican George Santos from Congress, a move that forces the chamber to hold a vote on the question.
The action was precipitated by the filing of 23 fresh federal criminal counts against the first-term U.S. congressman earlier this month, accusing him of inflating his campaign’s fundraising numbers and charging campaign contributors’ credit cards without their consent.
“George Santos is not fit to serve his constituents as a United States representative,” said Representative Anthony D’Esposito, who stood on the House floor flanked by fellow New York Republicans Nick LaLota, Marc Molinaro and Mike Lawler.
Santos, who represents a district including parts of New York City and its eastern suburbs, has been enmeshed in scandal since his November 2022 election, first facing accusations that he fabricated much of his resume and then criminal indictment.
Santos pleaded not guilty to an initial May indictment and has said he will do the same for the new one. Free on $500,000 bail, he is due back in court on Friday for a status conference.
“Three points of clarification: 1. I have not cleared out my office. 2. I’m not resigning. 3. I’m entitled to due process and not a predetermined outcome as some are seeking. God bless!” Santos tweeted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, after D’Esposito’s motion.
Under House rules, lawmakers must act on a privileged motion within two legislative days. The House is next expected to hold votes on Wednesday.
With a narrow 221-212 majority, the House’s Republican leadership has not taken action against Santos.
Newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson said in an interview on Fox News late on Thursday that Santos has a right to due process. “If we’re going to expel people from Congress just because they’re charged with a crime … that’s a problem,” Johnson said.
Republican leaders could try to avoid an expulsion vote by moving to table the measure or refer it to a committee.
D’Esposito and his fellow New York Republicans announced plans to seek Santos’ expulsion on Oct 11. But until Wednesday, the House had been shuttered for three weeks following the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The charges against Santos include false statements, aggravated identity theft and credit card fraud, accusing him of using the credit card information of people who had already donated to his campaign to make additional contributions.
“He has had plenty of time to do the right thing and resign,” LaLota said in a statement. “The only logical step is to expel him from Congress.”
In order to pass, the motion would require support from two-thirds of members in the House, meaning 290 votes. Democrats have repeatedly called for Santos to be expelled, and over a dozen Republicans have done the same.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Stephen Coates and Christian Schmollinger)