WASHINGTON — The House voted overwhelmingly to expel indicted Rep. George Santos on Friday, pulling the curtain down on a tempestuous term in office that was marred by revelations that he’d fabricated parts of his resume, a scathing House ethics investigation and a 23-count federal indictment charging him with crimes such as wire fraud and money laundering.
The vote was 311-114, with two voting present. Santos had already put his winter jacket on, left the chamber and sped through the speaker’s lobby before the vote total was announced.
“It’s over,” Santos said before heading to his vehicle outside the Capitol.
“They just set a new, dangerous precedent for themselves,” he added, noting that he’s the first House member in modern history to be expelled before a federal conviction.
A little after 3 p.m. ET, an Architect of the Capitol worker took down the sign in front of Santos’ office, replacing it with one reading: “Office of the Third Congressional District of New York.”
Santos, R-N.Y., had survived two previous attempts to expel him this year — one in May and the other a month ago.
But he began losing significant support just before Thanksgiving after the bipartisan House Ethics Committee issued a damning 56-page report detailing allegations that he had deceived his donors, filed false campaign statements and used campaign money to fund his lavish lifestyle.
Among the things he spent campaign funds on were rent, luxury designer goods, personal trips to Las Vegas and the Hamptons, cosmetic treatments, including Botox, and a subscription to the adult-content site OnlyFans, the report said.
Earlier this week, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said his leadership team wouldn’t whip the vote one way or the other, instead allowing members to “vote their conscience.” But moments before the vote, he, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Majority Whip Tom Emmer and GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, one by one, announced their opposition to removing the freshman fabulist.
Johnson had previously signaled he would oppose expulsion, saying: “I personally have real reservations about things. I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set.”
New Yorkers led
Santos quickly became a political liability for a handful of vulnerable New York Republicans who were part of his same freshman class; his fellow New Yorkers — including Reps. Anthony D’Esposito, Nick LaLota and Marc Molinaro — led the push to oust him.
And while Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., authored this particular expulsion resolution, he said he had closely coordinated with the New Yorkers to ensure they were the ones who forced the vote this week on the matter.
“It’s a sad day for this institution and it’s a sad day for the American people,” D’Esposito, who forced the vote on the Guest resolution, said after Santos’ ouster. “A new precedent had to be set because someone lied and frauded their way to the House of Representatives — it should have never happened.”
“Santos should have held himself accountable. He should have resigned when he had the chance,” D’Esposito added.
Added LaLota: “The voters were defrauded, and this expulsion provision today was unwinding that fraudulent election.”
A supermajority vote, or two-thirds of the full House, was needed to expel Santos; the final tally Friday was well above that high threshold. Republicans were evenly split on the matter, with 105 voting yes and 112 voting no. Almost all Democrats voted in support of expulsion. Two voted present, while two other Democrats — Reps. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Nikema Williams of Georgia — voted no.
Johnson, the new speaker, was presiding over the solemn House chamber as he gaveled down the vote.
“The chair announces to the House that, in light of the expulsion of the gentleman from New York, Mr. Santos, the whole number of the House is now 434,” Johnson said.
Just 11 months into his first term in Congress, Santos has admitted to lying about his background but denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to the almost two dozen federal charges. He had repeatedly rejected calls from his colleagues to resign, including at a chilly early morning news conference outside the Capitol on Thursday.
“Because if I leave, they win,” a defiant Santos told reporters. “This is bullying.”
He added: “I’m 35 years old. … It doesn’t mean it’s goodbye forever.”
His expulsion puts him in rare company: He is now just the sixth person in U.S. history to be expelled from the House of Representatives. Three were ejected for disloyalty after they supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. Two others — Michael Myers, D-Pa., and James Traficant, D-Ohio — were expelled in 1980 and 2002, respectively, after they were convicted of federal crimes.
Santos, who said last month he won’t run for re-election, had argued that expulsion would violate his due process rights, warning that the House would set a horrible precedent by booting him from office before he goes to trial.
“I will be No. 6 in the history, the first Republican, and the only one without a conviction or without having committed treason,” he said before the vote.
“If the House wants to start different precedents and expel me, that is going to be the undoing of a lot of members of this body,” Santos continued, “because this will haunt them in the future where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from office when duly elected by their people in their respective states and districts.”
Many in the far-right Freedom Caucus agreed with Santos’ argument and voted no.
“The stuff that came out in a report that alleges what George has done — I don’t agree with that. I don’t,” said conservative Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla. “But to expel a member of Congress, you need to have been convicted in a court of law, not public opinion in the House chamber.”
But after the vote, Guest, the Ethics chairman, said that the evidence against Santos was “overwhelming” and that the House had reached the right decision. He praised GOP leaders for not whipping against expulsion, which could have saved Santos.
“I have no ill will toward members who voted not to expel Mr. Santos. It was a vote of conscience,” Guest said. “I applaud leadership on the Republican side for not whipping against the vote. They could have very easily whipped against the vote with a very narrow majority that the Republican Party has. … I believe that the right verdict was reached today.”
Legal process continues
The Justice Department has charged Santos with multiple federal counts, including identity theft, theft of public funds and money laundering related to campaign donations. He is set to go on trial in September.
“Santos allegedly directed Person #1 to falsely tell donors that, among other things, their money would be used to help elect Santos to the House, including by purchasing television advertisements,” prosecutors said in their indictment in May.
Two unnamed contributors then each transferred $25,000 to a company bank account that Santos controlled, prosecutors said. He then transferred the cash to his personal accounts, they alleged.
“Among other things, Santos allegedly used the funds to make personal purchases (including of designer clothing), to withdraw cash, to discharge personal debts, and to transfer money to his associates,” the Justice Department said.
He was also charged with making false statements to Congress on his financial disclosure form, in part over allegations he overstated his income and holdings and didn’t report other sources of income.
One of those other sources of income, the indictment alleged, is Covid-19 unemployment benefits he put in for — even though he was employed at the time.
Santos’ expulsion means a special election will be held for the competitive Long Island-based seat.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, must declare a special election within 10 days of the vacancy. Under New York law, the special election must take place 70 to 80 days after she issues her proclamation.
The race to succeed Santos is expected to be hotly contested, with his seat already having attracted candidates from both sides of the aisle, including several GOP challengers who were intending to oust him in a primary.
Santos won his first term in November by 8 percentage points, an upset win in a district that President Joe Biden had carried in the 2020 election by 8 points. After Santos’ removal, New York Republicans said they believe they can hold the seat.
“Long Island is a bright shade of red in places, in cities and counties and towns that we haven’t had strongholds in in sometimes 25 years,” said D’Esposito, who represents a neighboring Long Island district.
He said he’s confident Nassau County GOP Chair Joe Cairo is “already working on finding the most Republican conservative individual to represent that district, one that is trustworthy, one that is ethical.”