Bye bye George Santos?

On Thursday, we watched as the House Ethics Committee completed its investigation into George Santos, concluding that there was “substantial evidence” that the New York congressman engaged in criminal activity, but they didn’t conclude with a recommendation that he should be removed from office. At the time, I wondered if Santos had just bought himself a lengthy reprieve while the full GOP caucus pored over the results. 

But that question seemed to be resolved yesterday afternoon when Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest determined that he had seen enough. He filed a motion to expel Santos and it could be acted on as soon as the rest of the chamber returns from the Thanksgiving break. 

Santos has already survived two attempts to remove him from office, but it’s looking more and more like he won’t make it through this one. 

The House is expected to vote on the expulsion resolution — which requires a two-thirds vote to pass — once lawmakers return from their Thanksgiving recess.

“The evidence uncovered in the Ethics Committee’s Investigative Subcommittee investigation is more than sufficient to warrant punishment and the most appropriate punishment, is expulsion,” Guest said in a statement on Friday. “So, separate from the Committee process and my role as Chairman, I have filed an expulsion resolution.”

All of the Democrats have already voted in favor of expelling Santos, so it won’t take nearly as many Republicans to reach the required two-thirds supermajority to give him the boot. None of the remaining holdouts have publicly stated that they believe Santos should be allowed to remain. They simply said they wanted to wait for the decision of the Ethics Committee. They didn’t quite get that on Thursday, but with the chairman of the committee coming out and filing a motion, that will likely be good enough for the rest of them.

Of course, Santos is technically innocent of the federal charges he’s facing until he’s found guilty. But the House isn’t hindered by that fact. The Constitution gives the House the final say about any of its members, so they can legally remove anyone they want for any reason at all. It’s not a power that is often invoked, however. Only five members have been removed in that fashion in the history of the country. They tend to be nervous about employing such an extreme measure, particularly if it’s the majority removing someone from the minority. If you vote for that, you never know if your name might be at the top of the list the next time the majority is flipped.

Mike Johnson doesn’t have to worry about that scenario since he’ll be looking at taking out someone from his own team. But that doesn’t mean it will be an easy decision. He’s only holding onto the majority by the slimmest of margins currently and George Santos has been a reliable party-line vote every step of the way. But keeping him around would create some damning optics and hand the Democrats a convenient “Republican corruption” narrative heading into a presidential election cycle. It’s a classic “Devil and the deep blue sea” scenario.

One might argue that the proper way to handle Santos would be to make sure that the voters in his district were fully informed of the results of the investigation and just let them remove him when the next election comes around. But that could be a tough sell for the Speaker to pull off. Given the nature of at least some of the alleged crimes Santos engaged in, it’s highly unlikely that the court would have brought those charges unless they had the paper trail to back them up. Credit card fraud isn’t all that difficult to prove in most cases, and that alone should be sufficient justification for removing him from office. I’m left wondering if all of this is giving anyone in the Senate any ideas regarding Bob Menendez.

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