Expected expulsion of Rep. George Santos threatens to shrink Speaker Johnson’s razor-thin majority

House lawmakers are poised to boot embattled GOP Rep. George Santos later this week, but doing so will come at a cost to Republicans, gouging away at an already thin majority. 

The Republican majority, which began in January with a five-vote margin, has not been at full strength for much of the year and will get a boost when newly-elected Rep. Celeste Maloy, Utah Republican, is sworn in. But the gain for the GOP is likely to be short-lived.

Mr. Santos is expected to face the third attempt to expel him from Congress after Rep. Robert Garcia filed a privileged resolution that forces a vote by Thursday on his fate. Mr. Garcia said he didn’t want to leave it up to Speaker Mike Johnson, Louisiana Republican, to bring an expulsion vote to the floor.

“I think any Republican should be ashamed of himself or herself to not vote for this expulsion,” Mr. Garcia, California Democrat, said. “He has clearly committed massive crimes. He has lied to his constituents, his whole life is a fabrication, and he himself is being prepared to be expelled.”

Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing Mr. Santos to resign — something the lawmaker has promised not to do. 

Democrats contend that Republican leadership has been protecting Mr. Santos to save their fragile majority. 

“It has been a political game for the Republicans for 11 months because they have a slim majority and it is unquestionable that they have protected him because they are worried about their slim majority,” Rep. Dan Goldman, New York Democrat, said. 

With the addition of Ms. Maloy, who won a special election, the House will be back to a full 435 members — 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats.

If Mr. Santos is expelled, the GOP majority would fall to 221. Republican Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio has said he will leave Congress soon to accept a new job as a college president, which would lower the GOP‘s majority to 220. 

But Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins of New York also is set to give up his seat in early February to lead an arts center in Buffalo.

The House GOP has struggled all year to maintain control, whether it is failing to pass spending bills because of in-fighting, or a small group of rogues joining with Democrats to fire then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy. 

The year-long challenges mean that losing Mr. Santos to expulsion might not have much of a practical effect on the GOP’s power in the chamber. Rep. Don Bacon, who is in favor of expulsion, told The Washington Times that booting Mr. Santos likely wouldn’t hurt the thin majority, but doing nothing could do more damage to the GOP during the upcoming election cycle. 

“The people are watching what we do and if we don’t do this right, and hold him accountable, we’ll lose more seats,” Mr. Bacon said. 

Mr. Garcia’s move means that Mr. Johnson will have to consider putting the Democratic-sponsored expulsion on the floor, either for a vote or a motion to table the bill.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, New York Republican, filed Mr. Guest’s expulsion resolution as privileged late Tuesday evening, meaning that the top House Republican will have two bills from which to choose. 

Expulsion resolutions require the support of at least two-thirds of the chamber to pass. Congress has only expelled five lawmakers in its 234-year history. 

Mr. Santos, who said he would not run for reelection next year, has already survived a vote to expel him when Republicans and Democrats banded together to save the lawmaker. 

Those who voted to save Mr. Santos in October argued that the lawmaker — who faces 23 federal charges for wire fraud, theft of public funds, and money laundering, among others — had not yet been convicted of a crime. Others said they were waiting for a long-brewing House Ethics Committee report.

The ethics report, released earlier this month, said there was fraud beyond what was contained in the federal charges, and pressed that the lawmaker should be referred to the Justice Department. The report has spurred dozens of lawmakers who voted against expulsion to change their minds. 

Booting Mr. Santos also means that his seat, which is considered a toss-up district, will need to be filled to complete the end of his term. 

New York law requires Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, to declare a special election within 10 days of Mr. Santos’ seat being vacated. The special election would happen up to 80 days after the governor’s request, meaning the GOP could be down a valuable vote until at least late February.

Both Republicans and Democrats have eyed New York as a battleground state following a spate of seats being flipped in favor of the GOP in 2022. 

Several Republicans and Democrats, including former GOP lawmaker Tom Suozzi, who previously held Mr. Santos’ seat but left to launch an unsuccessful bid for governor, have filed to claim the district. 

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