WASHINGTON — The House voted Friday to expel George Santos from Congress, making the New York Republican just the sixth member of the House ever to be expelled and the first in more than 20 years.
Here’s what you need to know about expulsion and what happens next:
What is the process to expel a member from the House?
There is no guide for what behavior rises to the level of expulsion. The Constitution gives each chamber of Congress the power to set its own rules and the power to punish members. The only requirement outlined in the Constitution is that an expulsion vote requires two-thirds support of the House to pass, which is currently 290 out of 435 members.
A two-thirds vote is a higher threshold than the simple majority that most legislation requires to pass. During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Gouverneur Morris argued that a majority vote would be satisfactory. But James Madison pushed back, saying expulsion “was too important to be exercised by a bare majority of a quorum” and “might be dangerously abused.” Madison’s stance won out, and the two-thirds requirement was put in the Constitution.
What happens now that Santos is expelled?
Santos was immediately stripped of his position as a member of Congress. The House speaker then directed the clerk to notify the governor of New York of the expulsion. That is the practice the House followed in 1980 and 2002.
New York’s 3rd Congressional District would not have a member representing it during votes until a replacement is elected, but Santos’ staff would continue helping with constituent casework.
A little after 3 p.m. ET, an Architect of the Capitol worker took down the sign in front of Santos’ office. It was replaced with one reading: “Office of the Third Congressional District of New York.”
How often are members expelled?
The House has expelled only five members throughout history, three of them in 1861 for disloyalty to the Union during the Civil War by fighting for the Confederacy: John B. Clark, John W. Reid and Henry C. Burnett.
The first member to be expelled post-Civil War was Michael J. “Ozzie” Myers, D-Pa., who was voted out in October 1980 after he was convicted of bribery and corruption in the Abscam FBI sting operation.
Democrat James Traficant of Ohio is the most recent member to have been expelled, on an overwhelming 420 to 1 vote in 2002. He had been convicted of racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.
The Senate, meanwhile, has expelled 15 members: 14 for supporting the Confederacy and one for treason in 1789.
What happens to Santos’ congressional office and staff now that he is expelled?
While Santos must now pack up his belongings, his congressional staff will continue working. According to House rules, the House clerk is responsible for supervising the staff and managing the office of any member who dies or resigns or is expelled until a successor is elected.
The clerk, Kevin McCumber, will have the authority to hire and fire staff members for the office with approval from the House Administration Committee.
When could a successor be elected?
New York law gives the governor 10 days to schedule a special election in the event of a congressional vacancy. It must occur 70 to 80 days after the governor’s proclamation is issued.
The special election is expected to be competitive for both parties — and expensive.
Could Santos run for office again?
While Santos has said he is not seeking re-election in 2024, he could run in the future even if he is expelled. After Myers was expelled in October 1980, he stayed in the race for his former seat but lost that November.
Traficant continued running for his seat from prison as an independent in 2002, losing to his former aide Tim Ryan. He attempted a comeback in 2010 but lost again to Ryan.