Just after House Democrats moved on Tuesday to force a vote on expelling scandal-plagued George Santos from Congress, GOP leaders outlined their thinking in a private meeting with some of the New York Republican’s harshest GOP critics.
After Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) took the rare step of filing a privileged motion to take up a resolution ejecting Santos from the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other party leaders met with a group of New York Republican lawmakers — including a handful who have publicly pushed for their GOP colleague to resign — according to four Republicans familiar with the discussion.
McCarthy’s message to Santos skeptics in his conference: We have to do this properly.
During that meeting, the four Republicans said, McCarthy laid out three options to handle the Santos expulsion resolution and explained that leadership is only considering one: referring Garcia’s proposal to the Ethics Committee. The GOP’s two other options are tabling the proposal and bringing it to the floor; McCarthy warned that those paths risked dividing his members.
McCarthy explained in the meeting that modern precedent for attempted expulsion of a House member involves waiting for an ethics panel report or a criminal conviction, according to the four Republicans, all of whom addressed the meeting on condition of anonymity.
“It wasn’t about saving Santos. It was about the process,” this Republican said, summarizing the leaders’ explanation as: “Ethics currently has its investigation, and it needs to finish.”
“I would like to refer this to Ethics. I’ll have a conversation with Hakeem. I would like the ethics committee to move rapidly on this,” McCarthy told reporters later Tuesday, after his debt ceiling meeting at the White House. “I think they could come back faster than a court case could.”
Garcia’s proposal was designed to push House Republicans to turn against a colleague they generally loathe. But as the Democrat acknowledged on Tuesday, McCarthy ultimately controls its fate.
“Republicans are going to have to go on the record,” Garcia said in a brief interview. “There will be a vote. As for what the vote is, it is up to the Republican leadership.”
Santos pleaded not guilty last week to 13 counts of federal charges, including wire fraud and lying to the House. While many swing-seat New York Republicans would likely relish the chance to vote in favor of ousting their embattled colleague, who has fabricated details of his background on multiple occasions, supporting Garcia’s resolution would do little but generate bad headlines for McCarthy — since successfully evicting Santos would require a two-thirds vote of the House.
The Tuesday meeting, held in Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s (R-Minn.) office, included New York Republicans such as GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, Rep. Claudia Tenney and Rep. Andrew Garbarino. Also in attendance were first-term Reps. Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito, Marc Molinaro, Nick Langworthy and Mike Lawler, all of whom have called on Santos to resign.
Emmer had requested the meeting earlier in the day.
So far, the majority of House GOP calls for Santos to resign come from New York’s newly-elected conference members, but two other Republicans also have called on him to step aside: Reps. Max Miller (R-Ohio) and Tony Gonzales (R-Texas). Beyond that group of critics, many other members of his party either try to avoid him or say they look forward to him being out of the House.
Many in New York GOP circles, however, suspect Santos will use his seat in Congress as a negotiating tool with federal prosecutors, hoping that a resignation could lead to a reduced sentence.
Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu contributed.
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