Two weeks ago, House Republican leaders faced a difficult challenge: They had to decide what to do with Rep. George Santos.
As we discussed at the time, the scandal-plagued congressman’s breathtaking dishonesty made him a laughingstock, but his problems go well beyond his list of lies. The New York Republican is, after all, facing local, state, federal and international investigations, and several of his GOP colleagues have called for his resignation.
The House Republican leadership could’ve honored the standards it embraced in the recent past and denied Santos committee assignments. Instead, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his team gave the New Yorker slots on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Small Business Committee.
To be sure, they weren’t the most sought-after committee assignments on Capitol Hill, but the broader significance of the move was tough to miss: GOP leaders were comfortable extending their seal of approval to Santos, indifferent to whether he deserved it or not.
Two weeks later, it appears the prolific liar is walking away from those committee assignments. NBC News reported on the announcement Santos made at a closed-door House GOP Conference meeting this morning:
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., said Tuesday he plans to recuse himself from his committee assignments until his ongoing ethics issues are resolved. ... Santos told his colleagues that he was stepping aside from committees “to prevent from being a distraction,” according to lawmakers in the room.
A spokesperson for the congressman confirmed the decision, telling NBC News that Santos intends to clear up “both campaign and personal financial investigations.”
We may never know for sure whether Santos made the decision on his own, or whether party leaders forced his hand, though it’s worth noting for context that the freshman lawmaker met with McCarthy last night.
At face value, this might seem like a temporary move: Santos, the story goes, has voluntarily stepped aside from these committees, leaving open the possibility that he’ll return to the panels once his issues are resolved.
But there’s no reason to believe the Republican’s troubles will be sorted out anytime soon. In fact, The Washington Post reported late Friday:
The Justice Department has asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on any enforcement action against George Santos, the Republican congressman from New York who lied about key aspects of his biography, as prosecutors conduct a parallel criminal probe, according to two people familiar with the request. The request, which came from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, is the clearest sign to date that federal prosecutors are examining Santos’s campaign finances.
With this in mind, it’s very easy to believe the GOP congressman might be indicted. Indeed, it’s an open question as to how many prosecutors will ultimately bring charges against him.
All of which suggests the members of the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Small Business Committee probably shouldn’t save a seat for Santos. He won’t be joining them anytime soon, and it’s likely he’ll never actually join them at all.