Rep. George Santos survives effort to expel him from the House. But he still faces an ethics report

FILE - Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., speaks to reporters outside the Capitol, in Washington, May 17, 2023. Santos, 34, has spent weeks fighting efforts by news outlets to unseal the names of the two people who co-signed the $500,000 bond, which enabled his pretrial release as he awaits federal charges of fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON — Rep. George Santos easily survived a vote Wednesday to expel him from the House as most Republicans and 31 Democrats opted to withhold punishment while both his criminal trial and a House Ethics Committee investigation proceed.

The effort to kick Santos out of the House was led by his fellow New York Republicans, who are anxious to distance themselves from a colleague infamous for fabricating his life story and accused of stealing from donors, lying to Congress and receiving unemployment benefits he did not deserve.

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But the resolution failed to gain the required two-thirds vote. Supporters could not even gain a simple majority, with the final vote being 179 for expulsion and 213 against.

To succeed, numerous Republican lawmakers would have had to break ranks with newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson, who has said Santos should get his day in court. Johnson, R-La., also recently told Fox News that if Congress is going to expel members because they are charged with a crime or accused of wrongdoing, “that’s a problem.”

Some Democrats also voiced concerns about getting ahead of the Ethics Committee, which issued a rare memo the day before, citing the depth of its investigation with some 40 witnesses contacted and the issuance of 37 subpoenas. It also said the next steps of the committee’s investigation would be announced by Nov. 17.

“I feel like due process is still alive. I feel like there’s enough colleagues on both sides of the aisle here who understand that,” Santos said after the vote.

Congress has rarely resorted to the most extreme punishment at its disposal. The House has expelled only five members in its history — three during the Civil War and two after their convictions on public corruption charges. It would be groundbreaking for the House to kick out Santos before his case in federal court is resolved.

Some Republicans, however, said they had seen enough of Santos. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., said he believes in due process, but also thinks Santos misrepresented himself to New York voters and they never would have elected him if they had “known the true George Santos.”

“We don’t need the Santos charade all the way through the 2024 election cycle. I think the Congress needs to take action now,” Womack said.

The House floor debate over whether to expel Santos was undertaken strictly by members of the New York congressional delegation. On one side, Republican Reps. Anthony D’Esposito, Nick LaLota and Mike Lawler laid out their case for expelling Santos.

“Mr. Santos is a stain on this institution and not fit to serve his constituents,” D’Esposito said.

On the other side was Santos, who appealed to lawmakers to hold off on expulsion, saying that passing judgment without due process would engender mistrust.

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