Bye bye George Santos: What's next?

The House voted to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) on Friday, leaving the GOP conference with one fewer lawmaker in an already slim majority.

Santos was booted from Congress in a 311-114-2 vote, just weeks after the House Ethics Committee’s damning report said there is “substantial evidence” showing the New York Republican committed serious federal crimes.

While the report did not recommend formal sanctions, it sparked renewed calls for Santos’s expulsion, which began last spring when the lawmaker was criminally charged for allegedly misleading donors and misrepresenting his finances to the public and government agencies.

A superseding indictment filed in October tacked on additional charges over accusations he inflated his campaign finance reports and charged donors’ credit cards without authorization.

Santos is just the sixth lawmaker in history to be expelled from the House.

Here’s what happens next:

What happens to the vacancy?

The U.S. Constitution requires all House vacancies be filled through a special election, which are scheduled by the state’s governor.

New York’s state law allows for special elections when the vacancy occurs more than three months ahead of the next general election. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) would need to call for a special election within 10 days of Santos’s expulsion, and the election is required to take place between 70 and 80 days later, according to state law. That timeframe would set an election date in February or early March.

The seat would remain vacant ahead of the special election.

Instead of holding traditional party primaries for Democratic and Republican voters to pick a nominee, local party leaders would select such the special election candidates under the state’s election law.

Who could fill the seat? 

Santos, who represents New York’s 3rd Congressional District in Long Island, announced earlier this month he would not seek reelection in 2024 regardless of the outcome of the expulsion vote.

The decision marked an apparent shift in plans after saying weeks before that he would still run for his seat, even if he was expelled.

A handful of candidates have already thrown their name in the ring to succeed Santos, including former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), who held the seat from January 2017 to January 2023 and gave it up to run for governor in 2022.

Former state Sen. Anna Kaplan and businessman Austin Cheng are also running as Democrats for the seat, and several other Republicans, including former New York Police Department detective Mike Sapraicone and businessman and Air Force veteran Kellan Curry.

The Long Island district broke for President Biden by roughly 8 percentage points in 2020, and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report labels the 2024 race as a “toss up” with a rate of D+2.

As for who could fill the seat in the special election, Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs told ABC News that Suozzi and 2022 Democratic nominee Robert Zimmerman are among those in consideration.

New York’s 3rd Congressional District is mostly covered by Nassau County, while also including parts of Queens County. Jacobs told ABC News the nominee choices would be made by Nassau and Queens Democrats, with Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) leading the Queens cohort with consultation from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Hochul.

It’s unclear who the Republicans would field.

GOP majority gets even slimmer

Santos’s expulsion takes away a key seat from the House GOP’s razor-thin majority.

With just a four-vote majority, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) could afford almost no defections on any partisan bill.

Now he’s missing another crucial vote, just as high-stakes legislation looms, including a series of government funding bills and aid for Ukraine and Israel.

That slim majority has already been responsible for voting down or forcing leadership to punt multiple spending bills.

And while Santos flipped New York’s 3rd Congressional District seat from Democratic to Republican in 2022, there isn’t a guarantee it will remain red in 2024.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), whose district is near Santos’s, appeared to dismiss any concerns, telling reporters that Nassau and Suffolk Counties are “a bright shade of red.”

When Republican Rep. Nick LaLota (N.Y.) was asked if he is concerned the seat could flip to Democrat, he told reporters, “Good government is good politics, and if we do the right thing here and fulfill New York’s expectations to expel a total fraud, I think there’s good politics to be had after that. But yes, it’s a risk.”

“We’re going to remove a Republican, narrow our majority, but I think that’s good government. … The voters will benefit us for it,” he added.

What’s next for Santos?

As for what comes next for the embattled lawmaker, he indicated he would like to stay in the realm of public policy, while noting he will do “whatever I want.”

“The future is endless. I mean, you never know; you can do whatever you want,” Santos told reporters Thursday morning. “Next, I’m going to do whatever I want, because whatever comes my way, I have the desire to stay very much involved in public policy and advocacy for specific issues.”

Santos also noted he “won’t rest until I see Donald Trump back in the White House.”

Asked Thursday what the first few days of him no longer being a congressman will look like, Santos said he will “definitely be sleeping in to catch up” and “gather his strength for what’s next.”

Noting he doesn’t have anything preplanned, Santos said he will be moving back to New York and realized he is “highly employable, because of the amount of job opportunities flooded in my direction.”

While he wouldn’t give specifics on what jobs he is being offered, he said they range from media to entertainment to public advocacy and policy.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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