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McCarthy parries move on Santos expulsion by invoking Ethics Committee

Democrats want New York Republican out after federal criminal indictment

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., pictured leaving the Capitol last week a day after he was indicted on 13 federal criminal charges, faces an expulsion vote.
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., pictured leaving the Capitol last week a day after he was indicted on 13 federal criminal charges, faces an expulsion vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Corrected 4:30 p.m. | Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he’ll move to refer to the Ethics Committee a Democrat-led privileged resolution to expel embattled New York GOP Rep. George Santos. 

The move, which the House will vote on this week, will effectively quash a procedural gambit from Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., to force an expulsion vote against Santos.

Santos was indicted last week on 13 federal criminal charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to the House. 

Numerous Democrats and some Republicans have called on Santos to resign, but he has said he plans to remain in office and run for reelection next year as he fights the charges. 

Garcia took to the floor Tuesday afternoon to raise a question of privilege in regards to a resolution he introduced three months ago to expel Santos from the House.

House rules allow certain legislation, including resolutions to expel members of Congress, to be considered privileged, which means a member can force a vote over objections of leadership. When a member raises a question of privilege on the floor, House leaders must schedule a vote on it within two legislative days. 

But leaders have procedural options to avoid holding a direct vote, like moving to table or referring the measure back to committee.

McCarthy will move to refer the expulsion resolution to the Ethics Committee. “I’m very concerned about George Santos,” the speaker said. “But what I firmly believe is just in the foundation of this country, we’ve got to have a process.”

McCarthy said he wants the Ethics panel to “move rapidly” in examining the facts surrounding Santos’ case and determining whether expulsion is an appropriate course of action.

“I think there’s enough information out there now that they can start looking at this,” he said. “And I think they could come back to Congress, probably faster than the court case.”

Garcia’s resolution would likely not have had enough votes to pass without McCarthy’s blessing as it takes a two-thirds of the House to expel a member. McCarthy’s effort to move the matter to the Ethics Committee will require a House vote but at a simple-majority threshold.

The resolution currently has 48 co-sponsors, none of them Republicans.

Garcia did not elaborate on his reason for wanting to force the expulsion vote in his brief floor comments. However, in a statement released later Tuesday, he called Santos a “fraud and a liar” and suggested he was taking action since GOP leaders won’t.

“News that federal prosecutors are filing 13 criminal charges against George Santos should have been the final straw for [Speaker] Kevin McCarthy, but he refuses to act,” Garcia said. “Republicans now have a chance to demonstrate to Americans that an admitted criminal should not serve in the House of Representatives.”

McCarthy and other GOP leaders have declined to push for Santos’ resignation, saying he has a right to serve until he faces trial, just as other lawmakers who’ve been indicted in previous years have done.

House Republican Conference rules bar members from serving on committees if they’re indicted or convicted of a felony carrying a prison sentence of two or more years. But the GOP rules are silent on expelling members in such circumstances, since that requires an act of the full House. 

McCarthy has said he would ask Santos to resign if he were to be convicted.

“If he was found guilty of that, I told him he would have to resign,” the speaker told reporters last week. 

In his comments regarding Santos on Tuesday, McCarthy did not rule out the possibility of an expulsion vote if the Ethics Committee were to recommend it. However, he made clear he was not predetermining what the bipartisan panel should recommend after their own investigation.

“I can’t control Ethics one way or another,” McCarthy said. “But what I would encourage the Ethics Committee to do is to do this quickly, to look at this. Don’t play time out. There’s enough facts.”

The “time out” comment seemed to allude to the fact that in similar cases where lawmakers have faced federal charges the Ethics Committee has paused its own investigation until the Justice Department case has played out.

This report was corrected to reflect the correct number of co-sponsors and their party affiliation.

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