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House Speaker raises ‘reservations’ about booting George Santos

By Jake Beardslee · November 29, 2023

In brief…

  • Speaker Johnson has "reservations" about expelling Santos without conviction.
  • Initial GOP support for expulsion may be fading.
  • Santos calls investigation a "smear" and won't resign before expulsion vote.
  • Some Republicans argue voters should decide; others want voluntary resignation.
  • Outcome remains uncertain given due process worries.
Support for expelling Congressman Santos remains uncertain as House Republicans debate issues of precedent and due process in the embattled New York representative's multiple scandals.  Office of Speaker Mike Johnson/U.S. House Office of Photography/Wikimedia

House Speaker Mike Johnson expressed reservations on Wednesday about expelling Rep. George Santos, stating concerns over setting a precedent without a criminal conviction, even as support grows among Republicans to oust the embattled New York congressman.

Santos has previously avoided removal efforts, but momentum is increasing after the House Ethics Committee released a report concluding Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”

The renewed expulsion push presents a test for Speaker Johnson as he navigates differing opinions. Some argue Santos should be expelled given the ethics findings, but others raise due process worries since he hasn’t been convicted.

“We’ve not whipped the vote and we wouldn’t,” Johnson said. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”

Johnson’s hesitation could make it harder for some Republicans to back expulsion. Initially, Rep. Nick LaLota predicted up to 150 GOP expulsion votes, but later said it “might be close.”

Expulsion requires a two-thirds majority House vote and is extremely rare, occurring only five times before. Santos said he won’t seek reelection but refuses to resign, denouncing the ethics investigation as a “politicized smear.” Separately, he has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges regarding campaign funds, finances and fraud.

The expulsion vote is expected Friday. While 18 previous holdouts now support ousting Santos, some Republicans still oppose acting before a felony conviction. “Let his voters deal with it,” said Rep. Ralph Norman to CNN. But Rep. Mike Bost prefers Santos “step down on his own.”