Rep. George Santos easily survived a second attempt to expel him from Congress, with enough members voting Wednesday to defeat a push to oust him from office over his federal criminal indictments and other behavior.
The House voted 179-213 to reject a privileged resolution brought by Republicans in the New York delegation, well short of the two-thirds majority needed to make Santos the sixth member in the history of Congress to be purged from the chamber.
Only 24 Republicans joined the 155 Democrats who voted to expel Santos, fewer than the 31 Democrats who voted against the resolution. There were 19 present votes and 22 members who did not record a vote.
Some Republicans who did not support the resolution cited concerns that the criminal charges and a House Ethics Committee investigation are still pending.
Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., said he voted present and pointed to a panel statement Tuesday that next steps in the probe would be announced before Nov. 17.
“So that’s why we wanted to let members know, not trying to influence in one way or the other, but also that we are getting close to being able to get something that we can release to the public and to the body as a whole,” Guest said.
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., said he voted no on the resolution because Santos hasn’t been convicted. But he said that “some of this stuff will shake out in the weeks to come, and we’ll come back and expel him after he’s convicted.”
Santos, at the end of the floor debate on the resolution Wednesday, said the New York Republicans were acting as “judge, jury and executioner.”
The only two member expulsions in the last two centuries took place after the defendants had been convicted, Santos said, and “now is not the time to set a dangerous precedent.”
“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.
Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y., who brought the resolution and forced a vote on it, sought to address those concerns within the conference during the floor debate.
“If we are going to set a new precedent today that we are against lying fraudsters coming to the House of Representatives, well then I am all for that precedent,” D’Esposito said.
New York Republican Reps. Nick LaLota and Mike Lawler flanked D’Esposito on the floor, each offering harshly critical assessments of Santos’ lack of character and fitness to serve New York’s 3rd District.
“New Yorkers from Queens and Nassau Counties deserve better than George Santos — a total fraud and serial liar representing them in Congress,” LaLota said.
Santos is not properly representing his district because he has no committee assignments and “lacks the minimum amount of trust necessary of a member of Congress,” LaLota said.
Alone, Santos sat quietly, left leg crossed over his right periodically typing text into his phone.
Earlier in the day, D’Esposito, LaLota and Lawler, along with fellow New York delegation members Reps. Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams, urged their conference to support the resolution despite the slim majority they hold. In a letter, they argued the issue is a “moral one” rather than one that is “political.”
In May, shortly after Santos was indicted, a Democrat-led resolution to kick him out was referred to the Ethics Committee, with then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy saying it afforded Santos “due process.”
Speaking with reporters after the vote, LaLota said he expects “scores of Republicans” to switch to yes on expelling Santos after the Ethics panel report comes out.
Of the five members who preceded Santos in being expelled, three were booted in 1861 during the Civil War because they fought for the Confederacy: John Clark, John Reid and Henry Burnett.
The other two — Michael Myers in 1980 and James Traficant in 2002 — were thrown out after they were convicted on bribery charges.
Santos is accused of a long list of crimes that include fraudulently receiving over $24,000 in unemployment benefits, unauthorized charges to his campaign donors’ credit cards, lying on House financial disclosure forms, filing fraudulent fundraising reports and defrauding campaign supporters by using money intended for his campaign on personal expenses, such as luxury designer clothes.
Nancy Marks, a former campaign committee treasurer for Santos, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to conspiring with Santos to report false information to the Federal Election Commission so that Santos’ campaign qualified for a national party committee program for assistance if he raised a minimum of $250,000 from third-party donors in a quarter, according to prosecutors.
On Tuesday, the Ethics Committee provided an update of its investigation, which has been ongoing since March. The committee’s investigative subcommittee into Santos, led by Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, and Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., contacted 40 witnesses, examined over 170,000 pages of documents and authorized 37 subpoenas, but has yet to take any action.
Paul Fontelo contributed to this report.