As a former congressman from Missouri, I know that voting to expel or sanction a fellow member of Congress is unpleasant business. But when the overwhelming facts are presented, then one must forget the politics of being a Democrat or Republican and, instead, vote to do what’s right.
Unfortunately, all but one member of the Missouri GOP congressional delegation failed to live up to that standard. Instead, they voted against expelling New York Rep. George Santos, who has a list of federal criminal indictments as long as your arm. If that were not enough to move these Missouri members to vote to expel Santos, there was an eleventh hour appeal sent to all Republican members, accusing Santos of having stolen money from a fellow Republican House member.
You don’t have to be a historian with a Ph.D. or a political scientist to know what was going on here. These Republicans feared that their four-vote majority in the House would be jeopardized along with the political power they covet. Pure and simple, they voted to keep their majority in the House, instead of cleaning house.
Undoubtedly, the five Republicans in the state’s delegation will bemoan the so-called “dangerous precedent” being set in the Santos matter — the precedent of kicking out a member of Congress who has yet to be found guilty of a crime. Do they not believe their own Republican colleague that Santos stole from him? It defies the imagination.
It’s well known the public already has a very low opinion of Congress. A recent Gallup poll shows congressional approval at a dismal 13%, while 84% of Americans disapprove. The vote on Santos will give Missouri voters an additional reason next year to vote against incumbents who should have shown more backbone and integrity in dealing with Santos.
In failing to expel Santos, these five Missouri members of Congress appear to be OK with the behaviors that form the basis for his indictments and brought disrepute on the House. His 23-count federal indictment included identity theft and credit card fraud. The House Ethics Committee reported he stole money from his campaign and used it for rent, designer clothes and Botox treatments.
There’s a saying in politics that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. Santos has walked and quacked his way as a candidate, a member of Congress, a Republican, a liar, a fraud and likely a criminal. He is what he is. He was treated with kid gloves because his vote was needed. He was needed until he wasn’t. When the Santos affair became too hot for House Republicans, he was sent packing.
Republicans are hopeful the Santos albatross has now been removed from the necks of Republican House members. But I doubt it. Next year, that political albatross will likely be hung on every Republican House member, including the Missouri five, who voted to keep Santos on the payroll and out of jail.
As Lord Acton, the English historian, politician, and writer stated in a 1887 letter: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Tom Coleman is a former eight-term Republican U.S. representative from Missouri.
Editor’s note: Missouri Reps. Mark Alford, Eric Burlison, Sam Graves, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Jason Smith voted not to expel Santos.