The House of Representatives debated on Thursday whether George Santos, Republican of New York, should be expelled for his numerous lies and alleged crimes, or whether such a move would violate historical norms and due process.
The debate quickly turned personal and bitter, as Mr. Santos’s opponents brought up his fabricated Holocaust connections and his false claim that his mother was at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. They also mocked his use of Botox, which even some of his supporters mentioned. The last speaker in favor of expulsion ended with a blunt statement: “You, sir, are a crook.”
The debate was a fitting climax to a political career marked by controversy, deception and scandal.
Mr. Santos, 35, faces a possible expulsion vote on Friday, after the House Ethics Committee released a report that found “substantial evidence” that he had broken federal law.
Mr. Santos offered little defense, refusing to present any evidence to refute the 23 criminal charges and the long list of misconduct that both Republicans and Democrats used to justify his removal.
Instead, he and his allies argued that expelling him before his trial would set a dangerous precedent and undermine the voters’ choice.
“Expelling George Santos would lower the bar for future expulsions,” Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida said, adding: “The problem is, it’s a lower standard for due process, without merit.”
But Mr. Santos’s critics, mostly from his own party, countered that he had been given enough chances to defend himself, including during the ethics investigation. They said the report was clear and convincing.
“I ask my colleagues: If we do not take the Ethics Committee and their results seriously, then why even have the committee in the first place?” Representative Anthony D’Esposito of New York said.
This will be the third time this year that the House votes on Mr. Santos’s expulsion.
The outcome is uncertain. Expelling a member requires a two-thirds majority, which the previous attempts failed to achieve. But since the ethics report came out, some lawmakers who previously opposed expulsion have changed their minds.
Mr. Santos has said that he expects to be expelled, a view he repeated on Thursday. But he has refused to resign, showing his usual defiance and setting the stage for Thursday’s dramatic debate.
The Republican leadership has been ambivalent about Mr. Santos’s expulsion. Speaker Mike Johnson has expressed some doubts about it, but has not actively tried to save him.
Mr. Santos responded by bringing up the allegations of domestic violence that Mr. Miller has denied, calling him ‘an abuser of women.’
The lawmakers who supported Mr. Santos’s expulsion mostly reiterated the numerous charges against him. Representative Michael Lawler, a Republican from the lower Hudson Valley, chose to highlight Mr. Santos’s false claims of connections to 9/11 and the Holocaust, condemning his colleague for exploiting ‘historical tragedies to advance his political career.’
In an uncommon move, the Republican chair of the Ethics Committee, Michael Guest of Mississippi, spoke in his personal capacity to give a strong defense of the committee’s report.
Holding up large posters with some of the report’s findings, Mr. Guest pointed out that Mr. Santos had previously said that he ‘welcomed the Ethics process.’
Mr. Guest, who proposed the current resolution to expel Mr. Santos, said that the process had been concluded after months of investigation, ending with a request that ‘all members vote to uphold the expulsion of Representative Santos.’
Mr. Santos spent much of his time disparaging the committee. He accused it of hastening to remove him without giving him due process and claimed that the bipartisan Ethics Committee began its work with a predetermined outcome.
‘I’m not trying to be arrogant or spiteful or, you know, disrespectful of the committee,’ Mr. Santos said. ‘But I am curious to know: What is the schedule of the Ethics Committee? Why rush this?’
Many of the Republicans who stood up to support Mr. Santos during Thursday’s debate also framed the decision to expel him as a significant question of precedent.
Only five members of the House have ever been removed. Three of them were expelled for supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War. Two others, one in 1980 and one in 2002, were removed from office after criminal convictions.
Representative Clay Higgins, Republican of Louisiana, said that expelling Mr. Santos would override the will of voters.
‘Are the American people to believe that the opinions of congressmen is a higher standard than the deliberate vote of the American people?’ asked Mr. Higgins, who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
He added that lawmakers’ push to expel Mr. Santos was ‘like witnessing an otherwise fair and compassionate village gather to celebrate the burning of an alleged witch.’
Still, some of the Republicans who rose to oppose Mr. Santos’s expulsion made clear that they did not endorse his behavior.
Even as he was speaking on Mr. Santos’s behalf, Mr. Gaetz brought up some of the scandalous claims in the ethics report: that Mr. Santos used campaign funds to pay for Botox and purchases on OnlyFans, a website known for explicit content.
At the beginning of his speech, he also tried to distance himself from his colleague. ‘I rise, not to defend George Santos, whoever he is,’ Mr. Gaetz said, drawing laughter from those in the House chamber.
Mr. Santos’s behavior on Thursday was in many ways a summary of his 11 months on the Hill. He alternated between being calm and defiant, occasionally making jokes but seldom sounding remorseful.”
He began the day by holding a press conference in which he criticized his colleagues and claimed that the expulsion vote was ‘a spectacle for the American people at the cost of the American people.’
Later, out of sight of cameras, he told a group of reporters he was ‘strangely calm’ and had begun to consider his future. He intended to write a book, he said, and had not dismissed the possibility of appearing someday on a television show like ‘Dancing With the Stars.’
At the conclusion of the debate, he appeared to admit that his remarks would have little impact on the result of Friday’s vote.
‘If tomorrow, when this vote is on the floor, it is in the conscience of all of my colleagues that they believe that this is the right thing to do, so be it. Take the vote,’ Mr. Santos said. ‘I’m at peace.’