Nov 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Republicans mount 11th-hour push for George Santos to resign

Rep. George Santos. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

House Republicans are pinning their hopes on a last minute resignation from Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) to avoid what one top Republican said would be "tough votes" on expelling him.

Why it matters: Two House Democrats are forcing the GOP's hand by ensuring that an expulsion vote will take place by Thursday.

Driving the news: Emerging from a meeting with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and other top Republicans on Tuesday evening, Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) described multiple phone calls between Johnson and Santos.

  • The two “have had conversations up until recently, even an hour ago, about [how] the right thing … would be for him to examine [his] position and resign,” Hern said.
  • Hern added that Johnson told lawmakers in the meeting that resignation “would be, certainly, an option that would prevent a lot of people from having to take some very tough votes."
  • Johnson is “trying to get him to thoughtfully consider what is best for the institution,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), the chair of the Main Street Caucus, who was also at the meeting.

Zoom in: Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), the secretary of the House Republican Conference, said there is "quite a bit of debate, back-and-forth" among Republican about whether Santos has been given due process.

  • Another point that was discussed, she said, was "are we all going to play by the same rules," noting that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has not been expelled despite his own explosive indictment.

Driving the news: Reps. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) introduced what is known as a privileged motion to force a vote on their resolution to expel Santos by Thursday.

  • GOP leadership can decide when to schedule the vote within that two-day window. McClain said "nothing was formally decided" at the meeting on the timing of the vote.
  • Garcia called the maneuver an "insurance policy" to ensure the House votes this week if Republicans decide not to force a vote on the resolution introduced by Ethics Committee Chair Michael Guest (R-Miss.).

State of play: Republicans are looking to the Thursday morning press conference Santos has planned in hopes that he'll resign before they are forced to move on a vote, according to a House Republican familiar with the plans.

  • The GOP lawmaker put the odds of Santos resigning at zero, saying he wants the "notoriety" from making history as one of a handful of people throughout American history expelled from Congress.
  • "I've given up any hope that George Santos has any shame. A person who had any shame would've resigned long before now," said Dusty Johnson.
  • Republican leadership is not expected to whip votes on expulsion in either direction.

What they're saying: "I'm sure politically in some world it would be better if Republicans police their own, but there are going to be plenty of Republicans that vote to police their own anyway. I certainly will," said Dusty Johnson.

  • The South Dakotan said Santos "is a crook, and ... it's an easy vote to expel for me," adding that "it feels like we should do the right thing regardless of whose name is on it."
  • Johnson is one of more than a dozen Republicans who previously opposed expulsion who now say they will vote for it.

The other side: Santos told reporters that Johnson asked in their phone call on Tuesday "how I was doing and if I had made my decision [on resignation]," and that he replied, "Yes, put up or shut up."

  • "All these members are pushing this. They want me to resign because they don't want to take this tough vote that sets the precedent to their own demise in the future," Santos said.
  • Several members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus have said they won't vote for expulsion, including Reps. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and Clay Higgins (R-La.).
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