The House of Representatives voted on Friday to expel Rep. George Santos, a New York Republican, marking the sixth time in history that a lawmaker has been ousted from the chamber. This extraordinary move, not seen in 20 years, required support from a significant number of members from both parties to meet the two-thirds threshold for expulsion. The final vote tally of 311-114-2 surpassed the required mark, with 105 Republicans joining almost all Democrats in removing Santos from office after just 11 months.
Santos, who is facing federal indictment on 23 counts of wire fraud, identity theft, and other campaign finance charges, had become a liability for the Republican Party. Many Republicans viewed him as a drag on the party’s image and a potential obstacle in the upcoming election cycle. Despite the growing controversy surrounding him, 112 Republicans backed Santos on Friday, warning that his expulsion without a criminal conviction could set a dangerous precedent for politically motivated expulsions in the future.
The months-long effort to remove Santos began after revelations that he had fabricated his biography during his campaign. The House Ethics Committee released a report stating that Santos had violated federal criminal laws, further fueling the push for his expulsion. It took three attempts to oust him from office, reflecting the complicated political and legal implications surrounding the Santos saga.
While Santos’s expulsion concludes his time in Congress, his legal troubles are far from over. He is facing 23 criminal counts, including allegations of misleading donors, fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits, and unauthorized credit card charges. Santos has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is set to go to trial in September 2024. His ex-fundraiser and former campaign manager have already pleaded guilty to crimes related to Santos, potentially deepening his legal dilemma.
The expulsion of Santos presents Speaker Mike Johnson and his leadership team with immediate challenges, as their razor-thin House majority has now become even slimmer. The ouster also creates a mid-session pickup opportunity for Democrats in New York’s 3rd Congressional District. An intense race is already underway to succeed Santos, with numerous candidates vying for his seat.
Santos’s expulsion raises questions about a new precedent for expulsion in Congress. Of the five lawmakers previously ousted from the House, three were removed during the Civil War for disloyalty to the Union, and the other two were expelled after being convicted of crimes. Santos has argued that he has only been charged and not convicted, questioning whether the presumption of innocence still holds in such cases.
As Santos faces the consequences of his expulsion and prepares for his legal battle, he remains proud of the work he accomplished during his brief tenure in Congress. However, he also expressed regret over the people he associated with during his political career and acknowledged that there are no do-overs in life.