House expected to take up resolution to expel Santos as GOP eyes off-ramp:
(CNN) — The House is expected to take up a resolution to expel embattled GOP Rep. George Santos Wednesday evening, but Republicans appear on track to avoid a politically painful up-or-down vote on the resolution.
California Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia introduced a privileged resolution this week to expel Santos from Congress. When the resolution comes up for floor consideration, Republicans are expected to make a motion to refer it to the House Ethics Committee, triggering a vote on whether to send the resolution to the panel instead of a vote directly on the expulsion measure itself.
That would give Republicans an opportunity to sidestep having to go on record on the question of whether Santos should be expelled.
A vote to expel Santos would be politically perilous for House Republicans. Republicans control only a narrow majority and cannot afford to lose more than a handful of votes to pass legislation. The party also wants to hold onto Santos’ seat, a key New York swing district.
At the same time, Democrats would seize on the votes of any GOP lawmaker who voted against expulsion and seek to tie them directly to Santos.
A vote to refer the resolution to House Ethics would require a simple majority – 218 votes – to succeed. A vote to expel requires a two-thirds majority in the House – 290 votes – a threshold not expected to be met if the resolution did come to an up-or-down vote.
New York GOP Rep. Mike Lawler, who has called on Santos to resign, indicated he will support an effort to refer the expulsion resolution to the ethics panel, saying “the committee will move very expeditiously” on Santos.
“The committee will move very expeditiously. He won’t be here for long,” Lawler told CNN. “Whether he cuts a deal and resigns, or the committee makes a recommendation to expel him. What the Democrats are doing is bullshit. It’s just politics.”
Lawler’s support for the referral suggests that House Republicans will unite behind the vote and pass the motion to refer the resolution to the ethics panel.
Santos under scrutiny
The House Ethics Committee announced in March that it was officially moving forward with a probe into Santos as the New York Republican faced mounting legal issues and calls to resign for extensively lying about his resume and biography.
The committee said that it voted to set up an investigative subcommittee with authority to look into a number of issues, including whether Santos may have engaged in unlawful activity related to his 2022 congressional campaign. A tweet from the congressman’s Twitter account said at the time that he was “fully cooperating” in the probe and would not comment further.
Separately, Santos was recently indicted and pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports.
In a news conference after his arraignment, Santos said that he had been “compliant throughout this entire process” but blasted the indictment as a “witch hunt” and said he will “fight my battle.”
The charges injected fresh uncertainty into the political future of Santos, a freshman congressman whose lies and fabrications stunned even hardened politicos and led top Democrats and some New York Republicans to call for his resignation earlier this year.
The congressman has said that he will not resign from his seat and that he still plans to seek reelection next year.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy indicated Wednesday he doesn’t want the House Ethics Committee to wait to see what the Department of Justice does in the case against Santos, saying, “I want our Ethics Committee to do their job.” McCarthy said he is going to tell the committee to move forward regardless of any requests by the DOJ.
“I don’t want to wait around for how long the court case could take. I’d rather have Ethics take a look at it,” he said, repeatedly shaking his head ‘no’ when CNN’s Manu Raju asked him if the committee would defer to Justice, as has happened with indicted members in the past.
McCarthy said, “I believe so” when asked if he has the votes to refer the expulsion measure to the Ethics Committee.
Democrats call on Republicans to back expulsion
Democrats urged their Republican colleagues Wednesday to back their effort to expel Santos from Congress and said if Republicans instead back the push to refer the motion to the ethics panel, they are “complicit in George Santos’ fraud.”
Rep. Dan Goldman of New York called on his Republican colleagues to “walk the talk” on ousting Santos.
“The Republicans, especially the members of the Republican Party from New York, where I am from, where George Santos is from, have called for his expulsion. There is now an opportunity for them to walk the talk and to make a vote consistent with their words,” he said. “To every member of the Republican conference from New York, I say to you, if you vote for this motion to refer it to the Ethics Committee, you are complicit in George Santos’ fraud and you are voting to make sure that he continues to be a member of Congress.”
“It’s time to get members on the record,” Vermont Democratic Rep. Becca Balint said.
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