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House Ethics panel won’t propose Santos sanctions, but chairman foresees another expulsion effort

Guest says disciplinary recommendations would have taken several months

House Ethics Chairman Michael Guest says the panel’s report won’t recommend sanctions of New York Republican George Santos but could  spur another move to expel him.
House Ethics Chairman Michael Guest says the panel’s report won’t recommend sanctions of New York Republican George Santos but could spur another move to expel him. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After months of investigating Rep. George Santos’ alleged transgressions, the House Ethics Committee won’t recommend sanctions against the New York Republican, but the chairman of the panel said he expects a third push to remove Santos from Congress — and that effort could garner more support.

Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., gave an early indication Wednesday of the conclusion in an Ethics report scheduled for release Thursday. He said the panel decided not to recommend disciplinary action because it would have “taken several more months.”

“I do expect that there will be another push to expel him once the report comes out,” Guest said, adding that the report and the public record would “be enough for members to be able to make a decision as to whether or not they believe it would be proper to expel Rep. Santos.”

Several New York Republicans pushed for Santos’ expulsion, but the House this month rejected their effort, 179-213. Two-thirds of members are required to expel a member. The opponents included both Democrats and Republicans.

Ethics reports with sanctions can take a long time. The panel began investigating Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., in 2014 and didn’t issue a report until late 2019. The panel directed her to repay $7,575 for misusing taxpayer money.

Santos faces 23 federal criminal charges over his fundraising, use of public funds and use of campaign funds. News reports have also shown him to be lying about his personal and professional history. It’s unclear whether the Ethics Committee report will shed more light on his behavior.

Rep. Nick LaLota, one of the New York Republicans who led the effort this month to kick Santos out of Congress, said there will be another effort and wondered what it would take to get more lawmakers on board. LaLota said after the vote this month that he expected “scores of Republicans” to support expulsion following the ethics report.

“I think the better question is what gets other members to yes. Do they need a bona fide recommendation from the Ethics Committee? I mean, we all know the facts, right, and I mean, the Ethics Committee is probably only going to substantiate what we already know,” LaLota said.

Given the Republicans’ slim House majority, the loss of any member could make it even more difficult for them to move legislation through the chamber. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., needed Democratic votes this week to pass a continuing resolution that would keep the government funded into next year.

In addition to this month’s expulsion vote, Santos survived an attempt led by Democrats in May. The effort was referred to the Ethics Committee, an action that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said provided Santos “due process.”

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., who opposed the expulsion move this month, said that “we’ll come back and expel him after he’s convicted.”

Only five House members have been expelled. Three were purged because they fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, and the other two were kicked out after convictions on bribery charges.

Santos is charged with fraudulently receiving more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits, making unauthorized charges to campaign donors’ credit cards, lying on House financial disclosure forms and spending campaign money on clothes for himself. He has vowed to fight the charges at trial.

Two people tied to Santos have pleaded guilty to crimes related to the 2022 campaign. Samuel Miele, a former campaign fundraiser, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, and Nancy Marks, his former campaign treasurer, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.

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