House votes to expel Santos from Congress in historic vote

Dec 1, 2023, 9:15 AM | Updated: May 28, 2024, 11:49 am

In a historic move, the House voted Friday to expel GOP Rep. George Santos,
Credit: Francis Chung/P...

In a historic move, the House voted Friday to expel GOP Rep. George Santos, Credit: Francis Chung/Politico/AP

 (CNN) — The House voted Friday to expel GOP Rep. George Santos, a historic vote that will make the New York congressman the sixth lawmaker ever to be expelled from the chamber.

The New York congressman has survived prior attempts to oust him, but there has been growing momentum for this latest effort after the House Ethics Committee released a long-awaited report in November, which concluded that Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”

A number of Republicans who previously did not support Santos’ expulsion have said they would now vote to expel him as a result of the Ethics panel’s findings, though it was not clear ahead of the vote if there would be enough support to oust the congressman.

Expulsion is the most severe form of punishment for a lawmaker in the House. It is exceedingly rare and requires a two-thirds majority vote to succeed – a high bar to clear. Only five House lawmakers have ever been expelled.

GOP Rep. Marc Molinaro of New York said that Speaker Mike Johnson informed the House Republican Conference on Friday morning that he would vote against the measure to expel Santos and encouraged members to vote the way their districts want.

Santos announced that he would not seek reelection following the release of the ethics report, but he has refused to resign and has denounced the investigation as “a disgusting politicized smear.”

The New York Republican has separately pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports.

Santos has remained defiant as he faces the threat of expulsion, arguing that he is being bullied and that it would set a dangerous precedent if the House expels him since he has not been convicted in a court of law.

“If I leave, they win,” he said at a combative news conference Thursday when pressed on why he won’t resign. “This is bullying.”

If the expulsion resolution succeeds, it would bring an end to a scandal-plagued and tumultuous tenure on Capitol Hill for the freshman congressman. In addition to the legal issues he faces, Santos has sparked shock and controversy on Capitol Hill over revelations that he fabricated large parts of his life story, including significant elements of his resume and biography.

Republicans weigh how to vote

The expulsion vote set off a debate among GOP Republican lawmakers over how to vote.

Some Republicans have argued it is imperative to expel Santos in light of the findings of the ethics investigation. Others, however, have raised concerns over due process given that Santos faces an unfinished legal battle and has not at this time been convicted.

The renewed push to expel Santos presents a leadership test for Johnson, the newly elected speaker, as he navigates competing opinions within his conference. Additionally, House Republicans control a very narrow majority, and expulsion would shrink it even further.

“We’ve not whipped the vote and we wouldn’t,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday morning. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”

House Ethics panel releases scathing report

In November, the House Ethics Committee released a major report following an investigation into Santos’ conduct.

The ethics committee said it uncovered additional “uncharged and unlawful conduct” by Santos beyond the criminal allegations already pending against him, and would immediately refer the allegations to the Justice Department for further investigation.

The panel concluded that there is “substantial evidence” that the New York congressman used campaign funds for personal purposes.

Santos engaged in “knowing and willful violations” with regard to financial disclosure statements filed with the House, according to the panel, and “knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission.”

The committee didn’t include a disciplinary recommendation in its report, but said that the conduct of the congressman merits “public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit upon the House.”

Expulsion from the House exceedingly rare

If Santos is ousted from the House in Friday’s vote, he would become just the sixth lawmaker ever to be expelled from the chamber and the first House member to be expelled without having been convicted or having supported the confederacy.

Three of the five House lawmakers who have been expelled throughout history were ousted over their support for the Confederacy.

The most recent expulsion in the House took place in 2002 when the chamber voted to expel Democratic Rep. James Traficant of Ohio after he was convicted of federal corruption charges.

There have been previous attempts to expel Santos that did not succeed prior to the release of the ethics report on the congressman’s conduct.

In early November, a Republican-led effort to expel Santos failed. Ahead of the vote, Santos defended his right to “the presumption of innocence.”

In May, the House voted to refer a Democrat-led resolution to expel Santos to the Ethics Committee.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

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House votes to expel Santos from Congress in historic vote