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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

George Santos to keep seat after House votes not to expel him

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

By Michael Gold, Luke Broadwater and Grace Ashford

A Republican-led effort to expel Rep. George Santos of New York failed decisively earlier this week, after a group of lawmakers from Santos’ home state could not persuade nearly enough of their colleagues that his admitted lies and federal indictment were sufficient grounds to oust him.

Even as House members condemned Santos for lying to voters and donors about his biography and résumé and apparently falsifying ties to the Holocaust and Sept. 11, many said that expelling him now — nearly a year before his trial is even set to begin — would set a dangerous precedent.

With Republicans holding a razor-thin majority that they are loath to imperil, many of them, including Speaker Mike Johnson, chose to defer judgment on Santos’ fate to the conclusion of the criminal case or a continuing House Ethics investigation. But dozens of Democrats also opposed the motion to expel Santos, even as their party has been unified in calling for his resignation.

The vote — 213 opposed to 179 in favor, with 19 representatives voting “present” — is the second time in nearly six months that Santos, 35, has evaded a push to expel him. And it has cleared the way for him to remain in office as he fights the 23-count federal indictment accusing him of involvement in a range of fraudulent schemes.

Santos said after the vote that he did not consider surviving the resolution a win. “This is a victory for the process. Due process won today,” he said. “Not George Santos.”

The resolution — which fell more than 80 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed — was introduced by Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, a first-term Republican representing a neighboring district on Long Island. It was backed by four other first-term Republicans from New York and supported largely by Democrats, who pushed a similar effort in May after Santos was first indicted.

Every Democrat and 77 Republicans would have had to vote to expel Santos, assuming all 433 members voted on the matter. That high bar was never in danger: While 24 Republicans bucked Johnson’s view and voted to oust their colleague, 31 Democrats voted against expelling Santos.

Santos attacked those in his party who voted to expel him. “It’s very sad to see that more Democrats believe in the rule of law and the presumption of innocence,” he said.

Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., who voted against the resolution, said it was not proper to expel Santos with both the criminal case and the ethics investigation outstanding.

“We will again have to consider, once those proceedings have concluded, whether he belongs in this body,” she said.

Santos’ criminal trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in September. The House Ethics Committee on Tuesday declared that it was “expeditiously” reviewing the allegations against Santos and would “announce its next course of action” on or before Nov. 17.

After the vote Wednesday, Rep. Nick LaLota of New York, part of D’Esposito’s faction, said he thought that the committee’s statement had persuaded some representatives to “hold off” until it published its report.

But he said that he and D’Esposito would press for another vote after the Ethics Committee released its findings, and he expected they would garner more support.

Santos, who is running for reelection, also faces a crowded Republican primary next year in which local and national leaders have said they will not back him.

But he narrowly avoided becoming the first representative since the Civil War to be removed from office without a criminal conviction, and only the sixth member of the House to be expelled in the body’s history.

Federal prosecutors charged Santos, who represents parts of Long Island and Queens, with 23 felony counts for his participation in a series of financial schemes involving his personal and campaign finances. They have accused him of filing false financial reports, fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits, stealing the identities and credit card numbers of campaign donors and falsifying a $500,000 personal loan to his campaign.

Santos has pleaded not guilty to all counts and has denounced the case against him as politically motivated and a “witch hunt,” language similar to that used by former President Donald Trump when referencing his four criminal cases.

But last month, his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and said in court that she conspired with Santos to report the fictitious $500,000 loan and other fake contributions.

D’Esposito and a number of first-term New York Republicans in vulnerable swing district seats launched the effort after Marks’ plea, and prosecutors charged Santos with 10 more felonies.

“My colleagues in New York did this because it is politically expedient for them,” Santos said after the vote.

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