The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to expel now-former congressman George Santos of New York, with 105 of his Republicans joining every Democrat to remove the embattled member from office.
Mr Santos joined the ranks of five other members of Congress – all of them Democrats and three of whom were members of the Confederacy – to be expelled, which he said he considered a badge of honour.
Votes to expel members of Congress are extraordinarily rare and require a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives. Speaker Mike Johnson and most of the House Republican leadership voted against his expulsion.
The vote bookends Mr Santos’s spectacularly bizarre jaunt as a candidate and elected official. After initially losing his race in a district in Long Island in 2020, Mr Santos and a handful of Republicans flipped seats that had voted for President Biden in 2022 when Democrats in New York underperformed amid concerns about crime. Mr Santos seemed to represent a new type of Republican as a gay Latino man with Brazilian heritage.
But the New York freshman Republican became a lightning rod before he was even sworn in after multiple media reports showed that he had fabricated several parts of his life story, such as lying about working for Goldman Sachs, his claim that he went to Baruch College and that he was Jewish.
These deceptions led many Republicans, including his fellow newly-elected Republicans from districts in New York that voted for Joe Biden, to call for his expulsion.
“He needs to focus on the fact that rather than he continues to hang his hat on the people of the 3rd congressional district that sent him here, they didn’t send George Santos here,” Rep Anthony D’Esposito of New York told The Independent on Thursday evening before the vote.
The vote was the third such attempt to remove Mr Santos from Congress, with another vote having taken place earlier in November led by New York Republicans and one led by Democrats having taken place in May.
But a report from the House Ethics Committee released two weeks ago detailed the extent of his alleged misdeeds, including filing false reports to the Federal Election Commission; lying about lending his campaign money; and using his campaign money to pay for luxury items including at Sephora, Hermes as well as on the OnlyFans website, known for selling pornography.
Mr Santos arrived on the House floor initially seeming cheery or at least resigned to his fate. He laughed with arch conservatives who would vote against his expulsion such as Rep Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) and Tim Burchett (R-TN). But shortly after the resolution crossed the necessary threshold to pass, Mr Santos put on his coat and exited the House floor before the final gavel was called.
As they exited the floor and descended the steps of the US Capitol, Rep Robert Garcia (D-CA) and Dan Goldman (D-NY), who led the charge to remove Mr Santos, high-fived each other.
“We should have expelled them nine months ago when we first brought the first-course resolution,” Mr Garcia told The Independent earlier this week.
Despite that, Mr Garcia said that the efforts of he, Mr Goldman and Rep Ritchie Torres (D-NY) led to Mr Santos’s ultimate expulsion. The House Ethics Committee report said Mr Goldman and Mr Torres offered the first complaint to the committee requesting an investigation.
“We triggered that,” he said. “Had we not for the initial expulsion, they never would have done the investigation.”
But some Republicans complained that the vote would set a bad precedent since Mr Santos has not been convicted of a crime the way that the two most recent members of Congress who were expelled were.
“You are allowed to have due process and a complete adjudication of that and it should never be cut short because of political preferences,” Rep Byron Donalds of Florida told The Independent. “And people might say, ‘oh my gosh, Byron Donalds is so emphatically defending George Santos.’ No, I am not. I am defending the rule of law and the rubric of of a free people to govern themselves, and it can’t be done by the whims of random politicians.”
But Rep Steny Hoyer (D-MD), a former House Majority Leader, told The Independent that Mr Santos’s conduct was out of the ordinary.
“The bar for service in the House of Representatives is not simply that you have not committed a crime,” he said. “It is that you have acted in a way that was acceptable to not only run for office, but to tell the truth. And the circumstances of this case, as I say, I don’t think will be replicated again.”
Mr Santos’s troubles will not end though. In May, federal prosecutors charged him on 13 counts, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public money and making false statements to the House of Representatives. Then last month, federal officials added new charges including stealing his donors’ identities and using them to make more than $44,000 in credit card charges. If convicted, Mr Santos could spend a significant time in jail.
The expulsion also means that House Republicans, who had only a nine-seat majority, are short one vote. In 2020, New York’s 3rd district voted for Mr Biden by eight points, making the seat competitive and giving Democrats a chance to add to their caucus. Gov Kathy Hochul will now have to call for a special election to replace Mr Santos.
On Thursday, Mr Santos said what he planned to do on his first day out of Congress.
“Sleeping in,” he told The Independent.