WASHINGTON – House Democrats took steps Tuesday to force a vote on expelling New York Rep. George Santos from Congress, an effort that is expected to be defeated but puts Republicans in the uncomfortable position of taking a stand on an indicted colleague.
The freshman GOP congressman has been charged with embezzling money from his campaign, falsely receiving unemployment funds and lying to Congress about his finances. He has denied the charges and has pleaded not guilty.
Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., introduced a resolution in February to expel Santos, something the House has only done twice in recent decades and requires the approval of a two-thirds majority. He brought the measure Tuesday to the House floor under a process that gives lawmakers until Thursday to dispense with it.
Republicans could vote to table the effort. They could also refer it to the House Ethics Committee for consideration, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., indicated was his preferred route. Both efforts require a majority vote. Republicans could also just allow the House to vote on Garcia's expulsion resolution, but that is unlikely.
“I wanted him to resign. We gave him plenty of time to do it," Garcia said of his decision to bring the measure up this week. “His other Republican freshmen also want him to resign and it's time for him to go."
Santos, despite the federal charges he's facing, is moving forward with his plans to seek reelection and has defied calls for his resignation. “This is the beginning of the ability for me to address and defend myself,” Santos told reporters following his indictment. His office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Garcia's resolution.
Republican leaders have said Santos deserves to have his day in court before Congress weighs in. The position Republican leaders have staked out generally follows the precedent that Congress has set in similar criminal cases over the years. The House has expelled just two members in recent decades, and both votes occurred after the lawmaker had been convicted on federal charges.
McCarthy said he would reach out to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., about referring the resolution to the Ethics Committee, which already has initiated an investigation into whether Santos engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his congressional campaign.
“I think we can look at it very quickly and come to a conclusion on what George Santos did and did not do,” McCarthy told reporters.
Democrats are looking to tie Santos to the Republican brand, particularly in key swing districts, and began messaging the effort to expel him as giving New Yorkers the “honest representation they deserve.”
"Now is the time for members of Congress to demonstrate where they stand and expel George Santos from Congress," said Rep. Suzan DelBene, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Associated Press writer Stephen Groves contributed to this report.