Speaker Mike Johnson was among the 182 Republicans and 31 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who on Wednesday night declined to expel Congressman George Santos over his litany of lies and alleged criminal behavior he has denied.
Ousting the scandal-paged New York Republican required a two-thirds majority. In the end, only two dozen Republicans joined 155 Democrats who supported the resolution. The remaining 41 lawmakers from both parties either voted present or did not vote.
Sean Eldridge, president and founder of the progressive group Stand Up America, specifically placed blame on Johnson (R-La.), whose election as speaker last week was widely seen as a display of the far-right’s hold on the Republican Party.
“As one of Mike Johnson’s first acts as speaker, he’s chosen to protect a serial liar and indicted fraudster,” he said. “That speaks volumes about the respect he has for American voters and his willingness to stand up to corruption. Sadly, this is just the most recent example of Republicans defending lying, indicted politicians for perceived political gain.”
“Voting to expel Santos is the bare minimum for any elected representative who believes in standing up to corruption,” Eldridge added. “Unfortunately, the new speaker and House Republicans decided to put political expediency over common decency. The American people, and the constituents of New York’s 3rd congressional district, deserve better.”
During his first interview as speaker last week, when Fox News‘ Sean Hannity asked about the effort to expel Santos, Johnson signaled his opposition to ousting anyone charged but not yet convicted and noted the party’s “razor-thin” House majority.
Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen and co-leader of the Not Above the Law coalition, also called out all members who voted against the resolution, declaring Wednesday night that “George Santos should have been expelled.”
“Politicians need to restore trust in our democracy, but the members who failed to act on one of the most thoroughly investigated and clear-cut cases of fraud by a House member are further eroding that trust,” she said. “Santos’ constituents deserve real representation, and Americans deserve to know that the people they elect to office are not above the law.”
Santos has faced mounting pressure to resign throughout his legal troubles, including last month, when federal prosecutors filed new wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy charges against the first-term congressman.
Following those charges, five other Republican congressmen from New York—Reps. Anthony D’Esposito, Nick LaLota, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, and Brandon Williams—introduced the resolution that failed on Wednesday.
“This issue is not a political one, but a moral one,” the resolution’s GOP co-sponsors argued in a letter to House colleagues that preceded the vote. “We should let the American people know if a candidate for Congress lies about everything about himself to get their votes, and then that false identity becomes known by his own admission or otherwise, that House members will expel the fraudster and give voters a timely opportunity to have proper representation.”
During debate on Wednesday, Democratic New York Congressman Dan Goldman pointed out that the Republicans behind this resolution declined to support a similar expulsion measure he co-sponsored in May.
Goldman still spoke and voted in favor of the Republican resolution. Notably, it was Santos himself who gave the Democrat the opportunity to speak, after the co-sponsors reportedly declined his request.
Punchbowl News journalist Ben Jacobs said that “at this point, you have to assume that Santos sees attacks on his fellow New York Republicans as a net plus after they have been coming after him for almost a year.”
NBC News reported that D’Esposito suggested to reporters he may force another vote on expelling Santos in the weeks ahead, after the House Ethics Committee releases findings of its investigation into the embattled congressman.
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