House Republicans on Wednesday voted to refer to the Ethics Committee a motion that would expel embattled Rep. George Santos, a politically savvy move that allowed members of his party to sidestep answering the question more directly.
Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California this week moved to expel Santos – who just last week was indicted and charged with multiple federal crimes – by introducing a privileged resolution that provides a two-day window for the legislation to be brought up. But the issue is a complicated one for Republicans, since removing Santos also risks losing his seat in a key swing district – and his vote in a narrow majority.
Accordingly, Republicans voted in favor of the motion to refer the issue to the Ethics Committee, which has already been investigating Santos, rather than go on the record voting against his expulsion and risk being associated with the New York Republican.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who advocated for referring the issue to the committee, made clear that there must be a “process,” telling reporters on Tuesday that the indictment is “very serious,” but “in America you’re innocent until proven guilty.”
“I think we can look at this very quickly and come to a conclusion on what George Santos did through Ethics – a safe, bipartisan committee,” McCarthy said. “And I think that’s when you bring it back to Congress.”
A vote to expel Santos would have required a two-thirds majority in the House. And although a number of Republicans have joined Democrats in calling for Santos’ resignation and condemning his actions, securing the votes necessary to oust the New York Republican appeared out of reach.
Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, fellow New York Republican who was among the first to call for Santos to resign, said he is in favor of Santos’ expulsion on Wednesday, calling him a “stain” on the institution. Still, he acknowledged as he introduced the motion to refer the issue to the Ethics Committee, that there was little chance of reaching that two-thirds majority.
“I firmly believe this is the quickest way – ridding the House of Representatives of this scourge on government,” he said.