Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 2, 2023
The headline is that the House voted to expel Republican George Santos from Congress because of the large pile of unanswered evidence of fraud and lies assembled by the House’s own bipartisan Ethics Committee.
But the news may be that more Republican colleagues opposed expulsion than supported it, 112 to 105 — an outward expression of just how much difficulty this party has in squaring its talk of morality with enforcement among its own adherents. The expulsion measure carried because Democrats provided the bulk of the two-thirds margin required for passage, making the total 311 to 314. Two Democrats voted no, and two others voted “present.”
All four top Republican leaders — Speaker Mike Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and Whip Tom Emmer — voted to keep Santos in Congress. Whatever principle is at play here is not about character or rules.
From the little that they — and Santos himself — said, those Republicans formally opposed expulsion because Santos has not been convicted in 23 separate felony criminal complaints pending in federal court. But the issue raised for expulsion was not directly about his criminal cases but about having violated rules of ethics set by House members themselves.
Indeed, Santos had declined to answer any of the evidence or questions raised by the Ethics Committee.
For all the caterwauling about being railroaded, this case has lingered for months and Santos has declined to explain his behaviors. Instead, he has lashed out, and promises more lashing, against others in the chamber who have faced justice cases without resolution.
Politically, of course, the expulsion reduces the margin of Republican-only votes to four — and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul immediately announced there will be a special election in the normally Democratic district, which could reduce the difference by one more. The reported departure of Kevin McCarthy and one more Republican by the end of year will make things yet tighter.
Maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t you want one defender at minimum who thinks your presence is helpful on the merits, not just on process grounds that even the target never met?