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Drama ahead of third Santos expulsion vote

Speaker has reservations about push to boot the freshman Republican

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., is seen in the Capitol on Tuesday.
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., is seen in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ahead of the third attempt to expel Rep. George Santos from Congress, some House Republicans say there are enough votes to make the New York Republican the first member to be booted without a criminal conviction or ties to the Confederacy.

But there are still concerns among others and uncertainty about the outcome. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., told reporters he’s allowing members to vote their conscience, but is concerned about the precedent that expelling Santos could set.

“We’ve not whipped the vote and wouldn’t,” Johnson said, and he trusts his conference will consider the vote to expel Santos “thoughtfully and in good faith.”

“I, personally, have real reservations about doing this,” Johnson said.

If Santos resigned on his own volition, the GOP would avoid having to take a tough vote that leadership isn’t enthusiastic about, but Santos has been insistent that he won’t do so.

Floor action is anticipated as early as Thursday on a privileged resolution by Ethics Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss. Another privileged resolution by Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., was noticed Tuesday.

Santos is charged with 23 federal criminal counts and is expected to go to trial next year. And a House Ethics Committee report released this month found Santos lied about his background and spent campaign funds on personal pursuits — including on Botox, trips to Atlantic City, Hermes and OnlyFans, an adult entertainment site.

Some Republicans, including members of the New York delegation who have been a driving force to kick Santos out, believe there are enough votes to meet a two-thirds majority threshold to remove Santos from office. Santos himself has said he thinks there are enough votes to expel him.

Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., who was a co-sponsor on the second expulsion resolution that fell short 179-213 on Nov. 1, said after Wednesday’s conference meeting that he anticipates around 150 of his Republican colleagues will support the measure. That estimation is significantly higher than the 24 GOP members who voted for the previous resolution, which was before the release of the ethics report.

“There’s a decent sense in the conference that the Ethics Committee is the due process or is the process that should be afforded a member,” LaLota said.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y., who led the last push to expel Santos, said he thinks the third try will be successful, although his count of supportive Republican votes is less than LaLota’s. “I think we’re at the number that we need to be—in the high 80s. We’ll see what happens,” he said.

The resolution needs 290 votes to purge Santos, meaning 77 GOP votes could do the trick if all Democrats vote for it. There are currently 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats in the chamber.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, such as Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Guest, who voted present last time, have said they would vote for it.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., who voted present last time the vote was taken, said the release of the Ethics Committee’s report changed his vote to a yes.

“But now that it has been [released] and is so damning, I feel we have to act on it. We can’t ignore it. And the standard cannot be that you have to be convicted of a crime before we do anything about protecting the institution,” Connolly said.

Other Republicans are opposed to purging Santos. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., who is a no vote, said he is doubtful there will be the votes to expel Santos.

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, said he would vote no, and mentioned that there has not been any vote to expel Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who has been indicted on federal bribery charges. Davidson said he’s unsure whether there will be enough votes to boot Santos.

“There are some Republicans who will vote yes, but I don’t know that you will reach two-thirds,” Davidson said.

Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, said it would set a bad example “if we can just pick and choose who comes and who stays.”

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