California Republicans were split as the House of Representatives voted to expel Rep. George Santos, the New York GOP freshman who faces almost two dozen federal charges related to misusing campaign funds.
Three California Republicans voted against the resolution, which passed with an overwhelming majority Friday. All 40 Democrats as well as eight state Republicans voted to expel. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, did not vote.
Reps. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, and Darrell Issa, R-Vista, opposed expulsion.
“Santos has been charged with such crimes, but has not been convicted. Although Congress is not required to wait for a verdict, I believe it should,” McClintock said Friday.
“Trial by a jury of one’s peers is an essential element of our jurisprudence, and a congressional committee, buffeted by partisanship, political pressures and personal relationships is a poor substitute.”
Traction to remove Santos, 35, increased following an explosive House Ethics Committee report two weeks ago which said there was “substantial evidence” Santos funneled campaign funds to cover personal expenses. These included at luxury retailer Hermes, adult-content site OnlyFans and for cosmetic procedure Botox.
It blasted the New York congressman for lies during his campaign, ranging from claims that he was the grandson of Holocaust survivors, a graduate of Baruch College who played volleyball, a former employee of Citi Group and Goldman Sachs and the son of a mother who escaped the South Tower on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and later died from related complications.
“No part of that backstory has been found to be true,” the report said.
“Failing to expel George Santos after the findings of the Ethics Committee would set a concerning precedent,” Rep. John Duarte, R-Modesto, said in a statement before the vote. “It would suggest that the highest representative body in the country tolerates fraudulent behavior and disregards the genuine findings and recommendations of the institutional bodies we have established to prevent such abuses of power.”
California Republicans against expulsion
Expulsion required a two-thirds majority, which was met Friday in a 311-114 vote.
Republicans were almost evenly split, with 105 voting to expel, 112 against. Two Democrats voted against expulsion. Two voted “present.”
California Republicans who voted against were concerned not only about essentially convicting a member without due process, but setting what they called a dangerous precedent.
McClintock said Friday’s vote “substantially broadens the grounds for expulsion that the House has observed for nearly 2 ½ centuries.”
He condemned “the conduct that is alleged.”
But, McClintock said, “the power of expulsion negates the right of the people to choose the representative they most want to speak for them in Congress. Such an extreme power should be used with extreme care.”
Until now, the congressman noted, expulsion has come because of acts of disloyalty, such as joining the Confederacy in the 19th century, or being convicted of a serious crime.
LaMalfa had a similar view.
“I do not think Congress should create a new precedent. Given the merging of justice and politics these days, an expulsion vote could be used as political warfare or to tip the scale in a decision of an ongoing court case,” he said.
Sixth lawmaker to be expelled
Santos is the sixth lawmaker ever to be expelled from the House. Three congressmen were expelled for supporting the Confederacy in the Civil War. Two were convicted of bribery and removed in the past half century.
That makes the New York Republican the first lawmaker in recent history to be expelled before being convicted of a crime. Some GOP colleagues, including Santos, said that sets a dangerous precedent.
“If it’s their choice to change precedent and loop me in with three confederate turncoats who were expelled for treason and two convicted members who were convicted in a court of law, so I’ll be the first person to get expelled from Congress without a conviction or without committing treason,” Santos said on FOX & Friends before the vote. “And it sets dangerous new precedent for the future to come. It’s the demise of this body eventually.”
House Republicans have a slim majority, made slimmer by the loss of Santos in the chance that a Democrat successfully replaces him in a special election. Some Republicans might have been concerned about those odds, given Santos, who reliably votes with his Republican colleagues, represents a district that President Joe Biden won by 10 percentage points in 2020.
His colleagues gave Santos time to resign instead of face expulsion this week. Santos turned that opportunity down, rather saying he would wear it like a “badge of honor.”
Third attempt at expulsion
This is the third time the House has voted on Santos’ expulsion, though the first two times came before the Ethics Committee report.
Throughout his tenure, Santos has been plagued with scandal caused by his lies about his life, resume and finances. In May, the Department of Justice charged Santos with 13 federal counts, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress.
The first vote to expel him failed then.
In October, DOJ prosecutors added another 10 counts, ranging from conspiracy to commit offenses against the U.S., wire fraud to falsifying records to making false statements to the Federal Election Commission to aggravated identity theft.
Again, a resolution to expel Santos failed.
Then the House Ethics Committee released its 56-page report in mid-November, detailing allegations that Santos deceived his donors and put campaign funds toward lavish personal expenses. Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, a Mississippi Republican, authored a resolution to expel Santos. He closely coordinated with fellow New York representatives who supported expulsion.
Rep. Robert Garcia, a California Democrat who has long advocated for Santos’ expulsion and filed the first resolution to expel him this year, then filed a privileged motion followed by a New York lawmaker to do so. That gave the House two days to act.
Garcia, D-Long Beach, said Friday that the House “sent a clear message that criminal behavior will not be tolerated, and we’re committed to upholding the highest standards of public service. From day one, our efforts to expel Santos have been about holding his corruption accountable, and we’ve succeeded.”
Garcia, according to The New York Times, told Santos before the vote that he had no personal animosity toward him. But, as another gay person, he was “sad for him.”