Updated Dec 2, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP tensions run high after House vote to expel George Santos

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

House Republican leadership is facing some internal backlash over their last-minute opposition to expelling former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) from Congress.

Why it matters: The historic vote to expel Santos was prompted by a report from the bipartisan House Ethics Committee which alleged a "complex web" of wrongdoing by the embattled Long Islander.

  • Beyond the Ethics Committee, Santos has also been twice criminally indicted. He pleaded not guilty and maintains that he is innocent.

Driving the news: The House voted 311-114 on Friday to pass a resolution expelling Santos from Congress.

  • Republicans split almost evenly, with 105 voting for expulsion and 112 voting against – compared to just two Democrats who voted against expulsion and another two who voted "present."
  • The push to rescue Santos gained 11th hour momentum when Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and other members of leadership came out against expulsion the morning of the vote.
  • Santos' removal winnows the House GOP majority to a three-vote margin, while also giving Democrats an opportunity to pick up Santos' seat.

What we're hearing: Ethics Committee members Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) and John Rutherford (R-Fla.) both floated to colleagues the idea of resigning from the panel if the vote failed, according to two lawmakers and an aide familiar with the discussions.

  • Garbarino told Politico, which first reported on his conversation: "People were frustrated with how leadership handled this entire thing. ... If this was not the standard to remove someone, why even have an Ethics Committee?"
  • The resolution to expel Santos was introduced by Ethics Committee Chair Michael Guest (R-Miss.) following the release of the report.

What they're saying: Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), who has been vocally critical of Johnson, said ahead of the vote that leadership's opposition to expulsion was a "shameful" addition to his critiques.

  • "The speaker and everyone in leadership knows this man is a crook," Miller said.
  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), in a nod to the political downsides for leadership of backing expulsion, told Axios: "This was a vote of the conscience. Truth and morals don't change based on the margin we have for the majority."

One House Republican, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said of GOP leadership: "I wish they would have voted yes on the resolution because we all know it was the right thing to do."

  • "It would have sent the message to the country that we don't want criminals in Congress," the lawmaker said. "They shouldn't have announced how they planned on voting either. That was very disappointing given they asked Guest to author the bill."

The other side: Another GOP lawmaker pointed out that Johnson repeatedly told members in closed-door meetings to vote their conscience.

  • "When Johnson said vote your conscience that was the death sentence for Santos. Leadership was just being leadership," the Republican said. "We all have a role to play in this act."
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