WASHINGTON — The House voted on Friday to expel Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., after a scathing ethics report revealed his multiple violations of federal law and his deception of his constituents and the public. Santos became the sixth member in history to be expelled from the House, and the first since 2002.
The expulsion resolution garnered bipartisan support, passing with a vote of 311-114, well above the two-thirds threshold required. House Republican leaders argued against expelling Santos, citing due process concerns and the potential precedent, but 105 of their members joined almost all Democrats in voting to remove him.
The expulsion ended Santos’ brief and troubled career in Congress, which was plagued by controversy and scandal from the beginning. Santos, who won a competitive seat from the Democrats in 2022, faced numerous allegations of fabricating his personal and professional history, including his Jewish heritage, his Wall Street experience and his college degree.
In May, Santos was indicted by a federal grand jury on several counts, including fraud, obstruction of justice and perjury, casting a shadow over his party and the House. Santos pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence.
Santos was the third member of the House to be expelled for reasons other than supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War. The last two expulsions occurred in 1980 and 2002, after the members were convicted of bribery and corruption, respectively.
Santos tried to persuade his colleagues to let him keep his seat until his trial was over. He argued that expelling him before a conviction would violate his due process rights and create a bad precedent for future cases.
“This will haunt them in the future,” Santos said on Thursday night during the floor debate on his expulsion.
On Friday, as the vote neared, Santos seemed to accept his fate. He draped his coat over his shoulders and exchanged handshakes with some of the conservative members who voted against his expulsion. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who also opposed the expulsion, announced the result of the vote and declared the seat vacant with a somber tone.
Santos left the Capitol quickly, surrounded by a horde of reporters and cameras. He got into a car and drove away.
Santos faced strong pressure from his own party to resign, especially from his fellow New York Republicans. Some of them were freshmen who represented swing districts and had helped the GOP win back the House majority. They distanced themselves from Santos, who had become a liability and an embarrassment to the party.
Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, whose district borders Santos’, spearheaded the expulsion effort and said that voters expected lawmakers to uphold high ethical standards. Another New York Republican, Rep. Nick Langworthy, said Santos had brought this upon himself.
“George Santos broke every precedent under the sun,” Langworthy said. “Has there ever been anyone here that’s made up a whole life?”
Santos had survived two previous expulsion attempts, but a damning House Ethics Committee report released the week before the Thanksgiving holiday appeared to seal his fate.
After eight months of work, Ethics Committee investigators said they had found “overwhelming evidence” that Santos had broken the law and exploited his public position for his own profit.
“It’s a solemn day,” said the chairman of the ethics panel, Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss. “No one wants to have to remove a member from Congress. But the allegations against him, the evidence was overwhelming.”
Rep. Susan Wild, the top Democrat on the Ethics Committee, reminded members that the decision approving the investigators’ findings was unanimous.
“Mr. Santos is not a victim,” Wild said. “He is a perpetrator of a massive fraud on his constituents and the American people.”
Santos’ troubles are far from over, as he faces trial next year in New York. Federal prosecutors in a 23-count indictment have accused him of duping donors, stealing from his campaign and lying to Congress.
The indictment alleges specifically that Santos stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. He then wired some of the money to his personal bank account and used the rest to pad his campaign coffers, prosecutors say. Santos has pleaded not guilty.
Santos’ expulsion narrows the GOP’s majority to 221-213 and Democrats will have a good opportunity to fill the vacancy. Shortly after the vote, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said she’s prepared to call a special election for the seat, likely in mid-to-late February under a timeframe set by state law.
“His lack of ethics and his failure to serve the people of our state, particularly New York 3 where he resides, have been abysmal,” Hochul said Friday.
The special election will kick off a hotly contested year of congressional races in New York as Democrats look to flip a handful of seats in the state and retake control of the House. The field of candidates for Santos’ seat is already crowded and includes former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat who represented the district before an unsuccessful run for governor last year.
Now that he has been removed from office, Santos’ congressional office will remain operational under the management of the Clerk of the House. No additional staff can be hired, but the current staff can stay on and perform constituent casework. They will be unable to undertake any legislative activity, such as the drafting of bills.
Santos, for his part, hasn’t lost all the privileges afforded to former members. He will still be permitted to walk onto the House floor and fraternize with members.
According to House rules, any former lawmaker can maintain their floor privileges unless they are a lobbyist, foreign agent, have a direct interest in the bill being considered at the time, or have been convicted of a crime in relation to their election or service.