WASHINGTON ― Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) defiantly said Thursday that he’ll continue fighting to keep himself from being only the sixth member ever to be expelled from the House of Representatives.
“If I leave, they win,” Santos told reporters during an early morning press conference outside the Capitol. “This is bullying.”
As Santos spoke, a garbage truck slowly crossed behind him, obstructing his stately backdrop in a moment quickly memorialized on social media by C-SPAN.
Santos’ tenure in Congress started with admissions that he lied about his background, and he then saw federal charges related to his election campaign, followed by a damning ethics report this month that was the last straw for many lawmakers.
The chamber began debate Thursday on a third effort to oust Santos, who is accused in an indictment of stealing his donors’ identities to charge their credit cards and using the proceeds for personal items. Unlike the previous two attempts, the new one stands a good chance of gaining the two-thirds majority needed to jettison Santos.
Still, a handful of Republicans sat with Santos on the House floor and spoke out against expulsion.
“Whatever Mr. Santos did with Botox or OnlyFans is far less concerning to me than the indictment of Sen. Menendez,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), contrasting some of Santos’ alleged unlawful campaign expenditures with the bribery charges against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) complained that Santos was being “publicly crucified.”
But it was Republicans, especially some of Santos’ colleagues from New York, who led the debate to throw Santos out.
“You, sir, are a crook,” said Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), pointing at Santos in a mild breach of House decorum.
“My colleague wants to come up here and call me a crook — the same colleague who is accused of being a woman beater,” Santos responded, referring to an allegation that was lodged by an ex-girlfriend of Miller’s but that Miller has denied.
The expulsion vote is scheduled for Friday. Santos acknowledged that his chances of staying in Congress were slim.
“I really stand firm that I’m proud of the work I’ve put forward,” he said. “I wish I could do more. If this is it, this is it.”
Prior to Santos even being seated in Congress after winning his election in November 2022, questions were raised about his resume and claimed background. Santos admitted that he had embellished some aspects of his past and said he would answer all questions at a later date, which never materialized. He has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against him.
Santos again declined Thursday to respond in detail to the federal charges, or to those contained in a House Ethics Committee report released weeks ago that outlined a passel of alleged improprieties. These included spending campaign donations on things like Botox cosmetic injections and subscribing to OnlyFans, a website that allows people to pay sex workers and other content creators for their work.
“I’m doing this in a different schedule,” Santos said of his intention to fully address the allegations. “It’s not the schedule of the House or the expulsion.”
As one of his likely last acts as a lawmaker, Santos introduced a privileged censure resolution against Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who has admitted to pulling a fire alarm in a House office building on Sept. 30 while the chamber was set to consider a bill to keep the government open but not extend further aid to Ukraine.
“No one in Congress, or anywhere in America, takes soon-to-be former Congressman George Santos seriously,” Bowman said in a Thursday statement. “This is just another meaningless stunt in his long history of cons, antics, and outright fraud.”
There are two resolutions to expel Santos pending in the House: one from Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), the chair of the ethics panel, and one from Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), who had sponsored two previous attempts to get rid of Santos, of which one was referred to committee.
Garcia expressed hope Wednesday that the third time would be the charm, though Guest’s resolution is the one that will be taken up.
“I think you’re going to have a unanimous Democratic caucus voting to expel him, and I think we’ll get the votes needed on the Republican side. I think we’re already close,” Garcia said. House Democrats have 213 members in the House, but 290 votes are required to expel a member under the U.S. Constitution.
Garcia said Republicans needed the ethics report to justify voting to expel Santos, even though many Democrats who had voted against expulsion earlier also did so on the grounds that Santos deserved due process. Garcia took credit for getting the ethics process started as a response to his previous efforts to oust Santos.
“Now the ethics investigation is done, and now Republicans are on board,” he said. “So, Republicans needed the ethics report.”
If one of the two expulsion resolutions makes it to a vote and is successful, Santos would be the first member since then-Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) in 2002 to be expelled and the first to be ousted without having been criminally convicted first, which Santos said would set a bad precedent.
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) — whose control of the chamber floor is already shaky, with only 222 GOP votes to call on when 218 are needed to pass anything — said Wednesday that he personally had reservations about expelling Santos but his party members were free to vote however they liked.
Garcia said the timing didn’t matter as long as the vote was this week. “The most important thing — I’ve mentioned this all along — for us, is we wanted to force a vote this week,” he said.
Jennifer Bendery contributed to this story.