GOP avoids vote to expel Rep. George Santos by sending issue to House Ethics Committee; Democrats cry foul

A Democratic push to expel indicted Rep. George Santos from Congress faltered Wednesday when the House voted on party lines to refer the issue to its Ethics Committee.

Lawmakers had accused GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of trying to dodge an effort to force a vote to oust Santos by proposing to shunt the measure to the ethics panel, which for months has been investigating the Republican whose district includes parts of Queens and Nassau County.

McCarthy’s quest succeeded on a 221-204 vote.

“It is a complete cop out ... to refer a resolution to an Ethics Committee that is already investigating,” Rep. Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.) said. “It is simply an effort for the Republicans to avoid having to take an up or down vote.”

He called on New York Republican lawmakers who have called for Santos to be booted from the House to oppose McCarthy’s tactic.

“If they vote for this, it will be clear that their promises were nothing more than political posturing,” Goldman said. “It will confirm their complicity in Santos’ continued presence in the House of Representatives.”

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) also argued in favor of a vote to remove Santos from office.

“The time has come to expel Mr. Santos and to put his seat back where it belongs, which is in the hands of the people of New York,” Torres said.

McCarthy claimed Tuesday that he hoped the Ethics Committee would move “rapidly” to complete its investigation of Santos, which it launched in January.

But critics pointed out that the Ethics Committee is highly unlikely to pursue the probe at all now that Santos has been indicted on a string of federal charges.

In recent cases in which sitting lawmakers faced criminal prosecution, the Department of Justice demanded that the Ethics Committee pause any investigations until the justice system takes its course.

There was no immediate comment from Santos himself.

Several New York Republican lawmakers who have criticized Santos sided with McCarthy’s move to avoid an expulsion vote.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), also of Long Island, made the motion to refer Santos’ expulsion to the Ethics Committee. “I firmly believe this is the quickest way of ridding the House of Representatives of this scourge on government,” he said.

The stand-off came to a head after Democrats used a procedural measure to bring an expulsion push to the House floor. Expelling Santos would require a two-thirds vote of the House.

Santos, 34, was charged with a 13-count indictment last week in Long Island federal court, accusing him of lying about his finances and fraudulently obtaining COVID-19 unemployment benefits.

He has pleaded not guilty and vows to stay in office and even run for reelection in 2024.

Only two lawmakers have been expelled from Congress in recent decades, and both expulsions took place after the legislators had been convicted of crimes, not just indicted like Santos.

Democrats note that Santos recently agreed to plead guilty to a theft charge in Brazil stemming from a bad check case.

Santos portrayed himself as a trailblazing gay conservative en route to an upset victory in a Democratic-leaning district on Long Island’s North Shore and a slice of Queens in the 2022 midterm elections.

Democrats are using him as a poster boy for a $45 million campaign to take back up to six seats that the GOP won in New York alone and retake the entire House in 2024.

Those Republican lawmakers are on the hot seat now that Democrats are pushing for Santos to be expelled. McCarthy and other GOP leaders do not want to lose Santos’ vote in the nearly evenly divided House.