By Makini Brice
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A vote to expel Republican lawmaker George Santos from the U.S. House of Representatives failed on Wednesday when fewer than two-thirds of the chamber supported the resolution, preserving Republicans’ narrow 221-212 majority.
The 35-year-old New York lawmaker has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of crimes including laundering funds to pay for his personal expenses, illegally receiving unemployment benefits and charging donors’ credit cards without their consent.
The former treasurer for Santos’ campaign pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to a conspiracy charge for inflating fundraising numbers.
“I must warn my colleagues that voting for expulsion at this point would circumvent the judicial system’s right to due process that I’m entitled to and desanctify the long-held premise that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Santos said ahead of the vote.
Expulsion of a lawmaker requires a vote by two-thirds of the chamber. Only five people have been expelled from the House in the country’s history, three for fighting against the U.S. government in the Civil War.
Santos represents a small slice of New York City and parts of its eastern suburbs. Nonpartisan election forecasters said Democrats could have recaptured the seat.
Republican lawmakers from Santos’ state of New York said last month they would introduce a resolution to expel Santos, but the move was delayed by weeks when the House was leaderless following the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Republicans on Oct. 25 elected Mike Johnson, who has said he did not support expelling Santos for being charged with a crime, to succeed McCarthy.
Santos has been ensnared in controversy since shortly after winning election last year, when he was accused of fabricating much of his biography on the campaign trail.
“Mr. Santos is a stain on this institution and not fit to serve his constituents in the House of Representatives,” Anthony D’Esposito, one of the Republican lawmakers behind the resolution, said on the House floor.
A trial for Santos is scheduled for Sept. 9, 2024, shortly before the elections that will determine control of the White House and both congressional chambers.
The House Ethics Committee has also said it is looking into allegations involving Santos. The investigative subcommittee contacted 40 witnesses, reviewed more than 170,000 pages of documents and authorized 37 subpoenas, the committee said.
The ethics panel said it would announce its next steps by Nov. 17.
Separately on Wednesday, the House, in a bipartisan 222-186 vote on Wednesday, defeated a resolution to censure U.S. Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib after she spoke at a rally that called for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced the resolution on Oct. 26, accusing Tlaib of “antisemitic activity, sympathizing with terrorist organizations, and leading an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Complex.”
Greene’s resolution referred to a peaceful demonstration in a House office building, during which hundreds of protesters were arrested. Tlaib did not participate in that demonstration.
Tlaib in a statement called the resolution “deeply Islamophobic.”
Greene drew bipartisan condemnation in 2021 after she compared masks to fight the spread of COVID with the badges that Nazi Germany forced Jewish people to wear during the Holocaust.
(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis, Lisa Shumaker and Diane Craft)