The House expelled Rep. George Santos from the chamber Friday, ending a short and notorious congressional career spent under a cloud of lies, ethics and criminal allegations, and the glare of media attention.
The 311-114 vote doled out the gravest punishment that lawmakers can impose on their own colleagues, the first of its kind in more than 20 years. There were 105 Republicans and 206 Democrats who voted to boot the freshman New York Republican from his office representing part of Long Island.
Santos during the vote had his overcoat over his shoulders in the chamber, shaking hands with members. He scurried out of the chamber before the final vote came down. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., announced the expulsion and the reduction in the whole number of the House.
The GOP conference now must operate with its narrow majority even slimmer. Santos’ removal brings the total number of Republicans down to 221; there are 213 Democrats.
The move comes after months of pressure in the form of 23 federal criminal charges, member complaints to the Ethics Committee, a detailed report by that panel and public outcry. Santos, in response, has dug his heels in, casting himself as a victim, blaming those who worked for him, calling his colleagues names and castigating the press.
Santos survived two previous pushes to expel him, relying on an argument that he had not been convicted and that due process was required. But the third time was the charm for detractors who said there was enough information to show he brought too much dishonor onto the chamber to remain in office.
Expulsion takes effect immediately, meaning Santos is now a former member and his office will be turned over to the House clerk’s office.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, has 10 days to set the date for a special election for the remainder of Santos’ term. That election would be held 70 to 80 days after Hochul’s announcement, with candidates chosen by party leaders in the district, not through a primary.
Former three-term Rep. Tom Suozzi is one of nearly a dozen candidates running for a full term in the district in 2024 and could be Democratic leaders’ favorite to fill the vacancy. Suozzi gave up the seat to run for governor in 2022 but finished third in the primary behind Hochul.
House Ethics Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., the sponsor of this most recent expulsion attempt, said the historic move to throw Santos out of Congress was aligned with the Constitution and that a lot of his GOP colleagues, amid Santos’ refusal to resign, saw no alternative.
“We followed the Constitution. The Constitution does not require a conviction. The Constitution just requires a two-thirds vote by the body itself — by the entire House,” Guest said after the vote. “He was given due process, but the allegations against him are so damning and the evidence is so overwhelming that I think many members felt like they had no alternative.”
Guest said this “was something that I think is considered, probably by many, as a dark day in the history of the United States Congress and the fact that we did have to expel a member, but I put a lot of this back on Rep. Santos.”
Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y., who led the second expulsion attempt against Santos, said Santos left no alternative but to kick him out.
“It’s actually a sad day. I wish it never got here,” D’Esposito said. “Santos should have held himself accountable. He should have resigned. But yet he put all of his colleagues and the American people in this position. And, now, I hope it’s a step in the direction of putting this in the rearview mirror, finding someone to represent the 3rd Congressional District the right way, and continue to do our work here.”
Despite opposition from top GOP leaders — including Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York — the measure was able to succeed.
Johnson said leadership didn’t whip the vote, but earlier in the week, he made clear that he had “real reservations” about expelling Santos absent a criminal conviction. And the day before the vote, Scalise said Santos will “have his day in court, which he deserves.”
Guest said he appreciated leadership not whipping the vote and said they easily could have because of the narrow majority. Although Guest didn’t seek to be a leader on the move to expel Santos — he said it fell to him based on his role as Ethics Committee chairman — he said it was “the right thing to do.” The GOP now has one less vote, and D’Esposito acknowledged the position leadership was in.
“I understand leadership was in a very tough position,” he said. “Listen, let’s be honest. We have a slim majority, and numbers matter.”
Santos joins a short list with five other members who have been expelled from the House. In 1861, three Democratic lawmakers — John Clark and John Reid of Missouri and Henry Burnett of Kentucky — were ejected because they fought for the Confederacy. In 1980, Rep. Michael J. Myers, D-Pa., was kicked out after a bribery conviction. And in 2002, Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, was expelled after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, along with other charges.
The third effort to boot Santos from Congress was aided by the release of a House Ethics Committee report. Several members — including Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Guest — cited that report as the impetus behind changing their votes to “yes.”
“I’m totally satisfied with the ethics findings. That’s enough for me,” Raskin said. “I just want a process. It can’t just be, ‘Oh yeah, I read some newspaper articles about him.’”
That Ethics Committee report, which skipped some procedural steps and didn’t issue a recommendation for discipline, said the committee did so in the interest of publishing its findings because of its “duty to safeguard the integrity of the House and the interests of justice.” It said Santos had “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit” and “blatantly stole from his campaign.”
The report recounted how Santos spent thousands of dollars from campaign funds on purchases at Ferragamo, Atlantic City resorts and Hermes and for Botox treatments. Other campaign money was used to pay Santos’ debts and on OnlyFans, an adult entertainment website, the panel found.
Many of the claims Santos made — including that he worked at Goldman Sachs; was the grandson of Holocaust survivors; graduated from Baruch College with a volleyball scholarship; earned an MBA from NYU; and was the beneficiary of a family trust worth millions left by his mother, who died from health issues derived from being at one of the twin towers on 9/11 — were determined in the report to be lies.
Santos lied so much that his own campaign staff encouraged him to seek treatment, the Ethics Committee found.
Now that he is out of a job in Congress, Santos has to worry about staying out of prison. Federal indictments accuse him of a fraudulent political contribution solicitation scheme, an unemployment insurance fraud scheme, filing false financial disclosure statements with the House, filing fraudulent fundraising reports and charging donors’ credit cards without permission. Jury selection is set to begin in September 2024.
Johnson is scheduled to head to New York City on Sunday to headline a major fundraiser for House members of the New York congressional delegation, without Santos, Politico reported.
This report was updated to reflect the final number of Republicans who voted to expel Santos.