As November got underway, Rep. George Santos faced an unpleasant expulsion resolution — his second — pushed by some of his fellow New York Republicans. The scandal-plagued congressman was nevertheless optimistic that the vote would go his way, and he was right: 179 members voted to kick him out of Congress, far short of the two-thirds majority needed.
There were a variety of factors at play. As we discussed soon after, for some members, it was simply too early: Santos is facing several criminal charges, but he’s pleaded not guilty and hasn’t yet been convicted of anything. For others, there was a fear of setting a precedent that might someday be used against themselves or their allies.
But perhaps most important to many Republicans was the fact they simply don’t want to see their tiny majority in the House get even smaller. Santos saw that as effectively an insurance policy that would extend his career.
At least, that’s how the landscape looked on Nov. 1. As the month nears its end, the prolific liar’s optimism is now gone — and for good reason. Axios reported over the weekend:
Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) said Friday he won’t resign from Congress but acknowledged he will likely be expelled as he lobbed salacious accusations at colleagues and called the chair of the Ethics Committee a “p***y”.
If the New York Republican were simply dealing with the criminal charges, he’d likely persevere on Capitol Hill, at least until his case has been adjudicated. A majority of House members simply weren’t prepared to act ahead of a conviction.
But Santos’ indictment is no longer his only problem. As my MSNBC colleague Clarissa-Jan Lim recently reported, the House Ethics Committee issued a brutal, 56-page report on Nov. 16 — after members had already begun their Thanksgiving break — concluding that the freshman lawmaker “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit,” including using campaign funds for personal use, deceiving donors who thought they were contributing to his campaign, and reporting “fictitious loans” to his political committees to “induce” additional contributions.
“And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience,” the report added.
The panel’s members went on to say that it found “substantial evidence” of criminal wrongdoing — beyond the crimes Santos has already been charged with — and they voted unanimously to refer the evidence to federal prosecutors.
With all of this in mind, it was the Ethics Committee’s Republican chairman, Michael Guest of Mississippi, who filed the latest resolution to expel Santos from Congress. Apparently having seen the writing on the wall, Santos reportedly said over the holiday weekend, “I know I’m going to get expelled when this expulsion resolution goes to the floor.”
At this point, it’s difficult to say with certainty whether he’s right in that assessment, though Politico reported that it’s looking “increasingly likely” that the expulsion vote will succeed. The aforementioned Axios report added that a “growing number of lawmakers in both parties who previously voted against expelling Santos have flipped.”
That said, for some members, the underlying dynamic hasn’t changed. Republican Rep. Troy Nehls, for example, conceded that the Ethics Committee’s findings appeared “pretty damaging,” but the Texan added, “[W]hy would we want to expel a guy ... [when] we’ve got a three-seat, four-seat majority. What are we doing?”
In other words, as Nehls saw it, Santos’ wrongdoing wasn’t quite as important as the GOP’s narrow partisan advantage in the chamber.
How many GOP members are thinking along these lines? We probably won’t have to wait too long to find out: A vote on Guest’s resolution is expected this week. To succeed, the measure will need 290 votes, and if every Democrat votes to kick him out, 77 or so Republicans members would have to join them.