A Republican-led effort to oust Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) from Congress failed Wednesday, allowing the embattled GOP lawmaker to remain in the House despite mounting legal and political troubles.
The chamber voted 179-213-19 on a resolution to oust Santos from office, far short of the two-thirds threshold needed to expel a member of Congress. Twenty-four Republicans voted to expel Santos while 31 Democrats voted to keep him in place. Nineteen lawmakers voted present, 15 of them Democrats.
Santos wasted no time claiming a victory for due process and vowing to fight the criminal and ethics charges to the very end.
“I will continue to serve the 3rd Congressional District of New York until the people choose to not have me,” he told reporters as he left the Capitol.
Santos also used the opportunity to lash out at the New York Republicans who led the expulsion effort, accusing them of acting purely out of “political expediency” in a tough election cycle. And he dismissed the concerns that his remaining in Congress could be a drag on his party — and might cost them control of the House.
“I don’t care. I don’t care about them; I don’t care about politics,” he said. “I care about policy. I came here for policy. I don’t care about reelections and keeping the political hacks employed.”
Only five lawmakers have been expelled from the House in its history, three of whom were booted for being disloyal to the Union during the Civil War.
Wednesday marked the second attempt this year to remove Santos from office. In May, the House voted to refer a Democrat-led expulsion resolution to the Ethics Committee, a decision that was largely regarded as redundant because the panel had been looking into the congressman for months.
But this week’s try — which came during the first full week of Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) tenure — was significant.
The effort was led by a group of Santos’s fellow first-term New York Republicans, and it comes as he faces 23 federal charges and stares down a September 2024 trial start date.
It also comes a day after the House Ethics Committee announced it would reveal its “next course of action” in the months-long investigation by Nov. 17. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), who led the expulsion effort against Santos, said he believed the looming update from the Ethics panel drove some lawmakers to vote against the legislation.
“There’s no question that the memo that they put out definitely gave some of our colleagues the ability to say let’s hold off for the two weeks and see where the report leads up, which is fine,” D’Esposito told reporters following the vote.
He said he is “confident” that the Ethics Committee’s next update will convince holdouts that Santos is deserving of expulsion.
“I’m confident that there will be enough information in that report to make it clear to everyone that what we’ve been saying for months is factual,” he said.
Santos, for his part, said Wednesday that he has not yet met with Ethics Committee investigators, but he intends to cooperate fully in their probe.
“That’s part of the process; I welcome it,” he said.
D’Esposito moved last week to force a vote on the expulsion resolution, setting the stage for Wednesday’s vote. D’Esposito called the legislation to the floor as a privileged resolution, a procedural gambit that forces leadership to set a vote within two legislative days.
In a departure from May, House leadership did not motion to refer the expulsion resolution to committee which, if successful through a majority vote, would have shielded the chamber from having to weigh in on the legislation directly. Leadership also declined to move to table the legislation.
The New York Republicans signaled last week that they would have opposed any effort to delay a vote on the expulsion resolution, which likely would have been enough to sink a motion to refer or table. In May, they voted to refer the expulsion resolution to the Ethics Committee — despite saying they thought Santos should be removed from office — deferring to the panel’s investigation.
The New York Republicans said the catalyst for forcing Wednesday’s vote was a guilty plea from Santos’s former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, who pleaded guilty to conspiring with the then-candidate to fraudulently inflate his campaign finance reports.
Federal prosecutors charged Santos on 10 new criminal counts shortly after Marks entered a plea deal, accusing the congressman of inflating his campaign finance reports and charging donors’ credit cards without authorization.
The superseding indictment brought the total charges against Santos to 23. In May, he was charged on 13 counts of misleading donors, fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits and lying on House financial disclosures.
Santos pleaded not guilty to all charges and has remained defiant in the face of growing legal troubles, reiterating as recently as last week that he has no plans to resign.
“Three points of clarification: 1. I have not cleared out my office. 2. I’m not resigning. 3. I’m entitled to due process and not a predetermined outcome as some are seeking. God bless!” he wrote last week on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
The New York Republicans tore into Santos during debate on the House floor Wednesday, dubbing him a fraud, calling him a “stain on the institution” and compelling their colleagues to take action against the embattled lawmaker.
Santos was the only individual to speak against the expulsion resolution during debate on Wednesday. But in an odd twist, he yielded Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) floor time during debate, which the New York Democrat used to sharply criticize Santos.
Santos said he gave time to Goldman “because I believe that everybody should have a say.”
“I knew he was gonna go up there and support it. But he asked me for the time and I gave it to him. And I would have given it to anybody,” he added. “You know what? I’m not scared of the process. I will face the music; I will face the process. I’ve been doing it for 10 months. … I don’t run away from this process.”
Goldman also took aim at the New York Republicans for forcing a vote on the resolution after voting to table the Santos expulsion measure in May, which Goldman co-sponsored. Goldman accused them of moving on their resolution now out of fear of political retribution. D’Esposito responded by pointing to the superseding indictment.
Mike Lillis contributed. Updated at 9:45 p.m. E.T.