WASHINGTON – Embattled Rep. George Santos was expelled from Congress Friday after a scathing House Ethics Committee report found substantial evidence Santos misused campaign funds for his own personal benefit and committed federal crimes.
The House voted to boot Santos, R-N.Y., from the lower chamber by a bipartisan vote of 311-114. An expulsion vote requires a two-thirds vote to pass − a heavy lift in the divided House.
Despite the early momentum for his expulsion, Santos' removal was still in question the morning of the vote as lawmakers demurred over whether they were certain they had the votes to oust him. All of the top House GOP leadership, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., announced they would vote against his expulsion.
Speaking outside the Capitol steps, members of New York's GOP delegation, who spearheaded the efforts to expel Santos, took a victory lap but lamented that Santos hadn't stepped down in the first place.
"It's a sad day," Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, R-N.Y., said. "We hear about Santos every single day. You go to the barber shop, you go to church, you go to the post office, you go get a slice of good New York pizza and people want to talk about George Santos."
"Santos should have held himself accountable and he should have resigned when he had the chance," he added.
Lawmakers who voted against Santos' expulsion sought not to defend the first-term lawmaker's alleged misconduct but expressed concerns over setting new precedent in Congress. Only two House members have been expelled in modern times and both were convicted of crimes before their expulsion.
Trouble from before Day One
The New York native has been mired in controversy since before he entered Congress, when it was reported Santos had baldly embellished and fabricated parts of his resume and background, including claims that he'd worked at the Goldman Sachs investment bank and that his grandmother was a victim of the Holocaust.
"I've been a terrible liar," he said during a TV interview last February.
During his brief tenure in Congress, the Long Island Republican was slapped with a multitude of federal charges, including money laundering, wire fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud and lying to Congress.
Santos faced calls to resign from both sides of the aisle in the face of those controversies, but he remained defiant up until his expulsion. While he has admitted to lying about his background, he has denied all wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.
His opponents have pushed to remove him from Congress twice already, but those efforts ultimately failed while lawmakers awaited the House Ethics Committee to release its report.
"I've been very clear. He's unfit to serve and I've been clear from the start that he needed to go," Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., said Friday. "You cannot allow a sociopath to serve in public office when you know full well that he defrauded voters and donors and the evidence was overwhelming."
House report: Santos 'cannot be trusted'
After the damning report was made public last month, momentum to expel Santos once and for all swiftly gained traction, leading to Friday's vote on an expulsion resolution introduced by Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., chairman of the Ethics Committee.
The 56-page ethics report found evidence Santos sought to “exploit” his House campaign for his financial benefit including “blatantly” stealing from his own campaign and deceiving campaign donors.
“Representative George Santos cannot be trusted. At nearly every opportunity, he placed his desire for private gain above his duty to uphold the Constitution, federal law, and ethical principles,” the Ethics Committee report read.
Disgrace, or a 'badge of honor'?
In one instance, Santos allegedly used $50,000 in campaign funds to pay off his own personal debt; make a purchase at Hermes, a luxury apparel store; make smaller purchases on OnlyFans, a subscription service for explicit content; at the personal care retailer Sephora; and for meals and parking.
On the campaign trail, Santos’ lies were so extravagant, his own campaign staff called him a “fabulist” and encouraged him to “seek treatment,” according to the report.
Despite the clear resounding support among both Democrats and Republicans to expel him in advance of the House’s vote, Santos refused to resign and accepted his fate, saying in a three-hour conversation on X spaces, formerly Twitter spaces, that he would take his removal in stride and “wear it like a badge of honor.”
Trouble for the GOP
Santos has also derided the ethics report as an attempt to “smear me” and “force me out of my seat,” saying it “wasn’t a finding of facts.”
Santos’ expulsion is a rare sight for Congress. Santos is the sixth member ever to be expelled from the House and is the first member in modern times to be expelled without having been convicted of a crime. His absence will shrink the House GOP's already razor-thin majority to 221 seats over Democrats' 213 seats.
To make matters worse for Republicans, Santos' district leans Democratic, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, offering Democrats a pick-up opportunity to narrow the GOP's majority further. New York law mandates Gov. Kathy Hochul must declare a special election within ten days of a seat's vacancy, and the state must hold the election between 70-80 days after Hochul's proclamation.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who voted to expel Santos? Lawmaker ousted after scathing ethics probe