House lawmakers voted Wednesday to refer a resolution to expel embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) to the chamber’s Ethics Committee.
The referral to ethics had reportedly been the favored route of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) after Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA) brought his resolution, first introduced in February, to the House floor for a vote Wednesday.
The vote passed 221-204 largely along party lines, forcing some vulnerable Republicans into the uncomfortable position of having their position on Santos, who’s been indicted on 13 criminal counts in federal court, on the record.
On May 10 Santos pleaded not guilty in the Eastern District Court of New York to seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.
All five Democrats on the Ethics Committee—Reps. Susan Wild (PA), Veronica Escobar (TX), Mark DeSaulnier (CA), Deborah Ross (NC) and Glenn Ivey (MD)—as well as Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez (D-WA), voted “present,” essentially abstaining on the vote.
Rep. Wild, the ranking Ethics Committee member, said the Democrats on the panel had made a “collective decision” to all vote present so as to “avoid any appearance of impropriety.”
Even as Santos faces federal criminal charges, the Ethics Committee launched its own investigation into alleged misconduct by by the freshman Congress member in March.
A special legislative subcommittee is looking into whether Santos may have “engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”
The House has only voted twice to expel a lawmaker in recent decades. The move requires a two-thirds majority approval.
When asked if he would comply with a potential recommendation from Ethics to step down, Santos said, “Well, of course, I’m not chaining myself here. If the Ethics Committee makes that recommendation, that’s a different story.”
Santos filed for reelection in 2024 on March 14.