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Embattled congressman still has a job–for now

The House votes not to expel Rep. George Santos

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., at the U.S. Capitol after debate to expel him from Congress Getty Images/Photo by Drew Angerer

Embattled congressman still has a job–for now

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., faces federal indictments on 23 charges of fraud, money laundering, and lying to Congress. He faces accusations that he lied to voters about portions of his biography and that he embellished his campaign finance numbers to get more money from the national Republican Party. But he does not face expulsion from Congress—yet.

Santos survived an expulsion motion on Wednesday evening in Congress by a vote of 173-213. Most Republicans and even some Democrats came to Santos’ defense. Nineteen members voted present.

Late last month, Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, a fellow New York Republican, introduced a privileged motion to expel Santos. That meant the House would have no choice but to vote on the matter. On Wednesday evening, Santos sat slumped in the center of a mostly empty chamber, occasionally looking down at his phone. Reports had circulated that his opposition had the numbers to remove him. A few hours before the motion came to the floor, Santos rose to give a brief defense.

“Efforts taken by members in this body to act as judge, jury, and executioner are unconscionable to our Republican system of government and to the integrity of this body,” Santos said. “I stand firmly in my innocence.” Santos has rejected numerous calls to resign, many from within the Republican Party.

The House of Representatives Ethics Committee announced Tuesday that it would release the findings of its ongoing investigation of Santos on Nov. 17. Those findings could flip many of the votes that were cast in Santos’ favor on Wednesday—like that of Democratic Rep. Mark Takano of California.

When I asked Takano why he would vote to keep Santos in his seat, he said he didn’t want to prematurely remove a member of Congress without due process.

“I wouldn’t want to see us set the precedent that we just start expelling people because of strong feelings, even though they look very justified. I would feel more comfortable if I saw an ethics report and if they recommended this expulsion,” Takano said. “I think this was premature.”

Takano said he followed the lead of fellow Democrat, Rep. Jamie Raskin—a constitutional law professor turned congressman—who also voted against the resolution to remove Santos.

The House of Representatives has removed only five members in its history. Three of them were ousted in 1861 during the Civil War for “disloyalty to the Union and fighting for the Confederacy.” More than a hundred years later, Rep. Michael J. Myers was convicted of bribery and removed in a 376-30 vote in 1980. And most recently, the House voted 420-1 to expel Rep. James Traficant in 2002 after the Ohio congressman was convicted on charges of bribery, obstruction of justice, and racketeering. Takano doesn’t believe there’s an urgency to add Santos’ name to that list.

Does that mean Takano thinks Santos is innocent?

“Absolutely not,” Takano said, but he wants to make sure that a high bar exists for removing a congressman beyond trial-by-headline.

Moments after the vote, Santos told reporters he felt vindicated.

“The simple answer is: people may not be happy with the process. But they do not have a right to create a predetermined outcome; there is a process in place. I am fighting to clear my name,” Santos said.

He, too, is waiting on the results from the Ethics Committee.

“That’s part of the process. I welcome it,” Santos said. “I have been very cooperative with the committee ever since the investigation started and I have no plans on changing that.”

Santos appeared in court last Friday to submit a plea of not guilty and maintains he has done nothing wrong. He has announced plans to run for reelection in 2024.

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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