March 5, 2024

The Republican chairman of the bipartisan House Ethics Committee introduced a resolution on Friday to expel Representative George Santos of New York from Congress, citing the committee’s damning new report documenting pervasive campaign fraud and violations of House rules.

The move by Representative Michael Guest of Mississippi, the committee’s chairman, laid the groundwork for a pivotal vote after Thanksgiving that could make Mr. Santos the sixth representative to be ejected in the chamber’s history.

“The evidence uncovered in the Ethics Committee’s investigative subcommittee investigation is more than sufficient to warrant punishment,” Mr. Guest said in a statement accompanying his five-page resolution. “And the most appropriate punishment is expulsion.”

Mr. Santos, a Republican, has survived two expulsion efforts after a crush of reports in The New York Times and other publications exposed his fabricated life story and federal prosecutors charged him with 23 felonies.

But support for Mr. Santos appeared to be eroding fast on Friday, as dozens of lawmakers in both parties indicated that the ethics report — showing how he spent tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions on Botox, Ferragamo goods and vacations — was the final straw for a lawmaker who has caused a year’s worth of political headaches.

Mr. Santos, 35, now faces a crucial decision: whether to stay and fight a potentially humiliating ouster, or pre-emptively resign in hopes of currying favor with prosecutors.

Leaving Congress would mean giving up his $174,000 annual salary as his legal bills pile up. Mr. Santos would also foreclose on any possibility of a congressional pension after he retires: Members must serve five years to receive one.

He has been unrepentant thus far, slamming the investigation on Thursday as a “politicized smear” and pledging to continue to serve his constituents for as long as he was allowed. But in an apparent effort to head off an expulsion fight, he announced he would not seek another term in his Long Island and Queens district.

It was unclear if it would have the desired effect, though the threshold for expulsion is high: two-thirds of the chamber would have to vote in favor of removal.

“The report is thorough & damning,” Representative Ashley Hinson, Republican of Iowa, wrote in a post to X. “His conduct was illegal & unacceptable & Americans deserve better from their representatives.”

Representative Jamie Raskin, an influential Democrat from Maryland, said he had opposed earlier censures of Mr. Santos to avoid setting a precedent “of expelling people based on intuition, without criminal convictions or formal disciplinary findings.”

“Now that those findings have been made of very serious misconduct in his case,” Mr. Raskin added, “our duty seems clear.”

The potential expulsion vote will also pose an early test for Speaker Mike Johnson, the new Republican leader, who had previously suggested that it would be premature to eject Mr. Santos with a criminal case underway. Mr. Santos has been a political drag on the party, but Republicans can scarcely afford to lose his seat given their razor-thin House majority.

In a statement on Thursday evening, Mr. Johnson declined to give Mr. Santos cover. He called the report “very troubling,” and urged members of both parties to “consider the best interests of the institution.”

Back in New York, leaders in both parties were already deep into deliberations about a possible special election to fill Mr. Santos’s seat early next year. President Biden won the seat by eight points in 2020, but Republicans have dominated the area since then.

If Mr. Santos were to step down or be removed, his seat would be subject to a special election scheduled by Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York. Local party leaders generally pick their nominees in special elections.

The Republican Party chairman in Nassau County renewed calls for Mr. Santos to resign, and has been vetting possible candidates for months.

Democratic leaders have privately indicated that they would most likely put forward Thomas R. Suozzi, who held the seat before Mr. Santos but gave it up to run for governor.

Only five members of the House have been expelled in the body’s history. Three of them were expelled in the Civil War era for fighting for the Confederacy. Two others — Michael J. Myers in 1980 and James A. Traficant Jr. in 2002 — were convicted in criminal court before being expelled.

Before the report was released Wednesday, members of Congress made much of the precedent that would be set by removing Mr. Santos. They argued that he was just as entitled as any other American citizen to due process and had the right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

At the same time, the Ethics Committee seemed to signal that it viewed this case as unlike any that had come before it. Despite a longstanding tradition of deference to federal prosecutors, the committee chose in this case to pursue its own investigation and release its findings publicly.

In its report, the committee explained that decision by citing a “duty to safeguard the integrity of the House and the interests of justice,” concluding that waiting would “effectively prevent the Committee from exercising any oversight” of Mr. Santos.

Luke Broadwater contributed reporting from Washington D.C.

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