Representative George Santos departs a Republican caucus meeting at the...

Representative George Santos departs a Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol in Washington, on Tuesday. Credit: Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) notified House Republicans on Tuesday he was recusing himself from the two House committees he was appointed to earlier this month, saying he wanted "to take time to properly clear my name before returning to my committees."

The recusal by Santos comes as he faces calls to resign and confronts county, state and federal probes into his campaign fundraising operation.

“With the ongoing attention surrounding both my personal and campaign financial investigations, I have submitted a request to [House Speaker Kevin McCarthy] that I be temporarily recused from my committee assignments until I am cleared,” Santos said in a statement posted to his congressional website.

“This was a decision that I take very seriously,” Santos said.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) on Tuesday recused himself from the two House committees he was appointed to earlier this month.
  • In explaining his decision, Santos said he wanted "to take time to properly clear my name before returning to my committees."
  • Santos' departure from the Science and Small Business committees comes as he faces calls to resign and confronts county, state and federal probes into his campaign fundraising operations.

Santos, who has been trailed by reporters and camera crews since arriving on Capitol Hill a month ago, told GOP House members he had made the decision to recuse himself from the House Science and Small Business committees, saying he didn't want to be a distraction.

Private meeting with House speaker

 He said he had notified McCarthy (R-Calif.) of his move in a closed-door meeting Monday in McCarthy’s office."

Santos, speaking to reporters briefly as he left his congressional office on Tuesday afternoon, said he was not forced to recuse himself.

"Nobody tells me to do anything," Santos said. "I made the decision on my own that I thought best represented the interest of the voters."

Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, McCarthy said: “I think it was an appropriate decision.”

McCarthy said Santos told him he would stay off the committees “until he could clear everything up.”

McCarthy continued: “We had a discussion and he asked me if he could do that.”

Calls to resign from Congress

Several Republican and Democratic House members have voiced concern about appointing Santos to House committees amid the probes.

Santos also has faced calls from New York's Republican House freshmen to resign.

Reps. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park) and Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) in a joint statement Tuesday repeated their calls for Santos to resign.

“This is a classic case of someone quitting right before they were going to get fired," the lawmakers said.

"While we, and the overwhelming percentage of Long Islanders we represent, are relieved to see that Santos will not be undeservedly sitting on committees, he should still do the right thing and resign," D'Esposito and LaLota said. "That is what is in the best interest of his constituents and House Republicans.”

McCarthy came to Santos' defense earlier in January, telling reporters Santos was elected by voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional District and should not be denied committee assignments.

McCarthy on Tuesday said Republican leaders would temporarily fill his seats with other House Republicans.

Asked by reporters what it would take for Santos to "clear" his name and return to the committees, McCarthy pointed to the House Ethics Committee.

The bipartisan panel has received at least one complaint about Santos, filed by Reps. Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) and Daniel Goldman (D-Brooklyn/Manhattan).

"Going through Ethics on some of these concerns,” McCarthy said. “The voters have elected him, they’ll have a voice here in Congress, until he answers all those questions then he’ll, at that time he’ll be able to be seated on committees."

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville), the No. 3 House Republican, confirmed news of Santos' recusal during a news conference Tuesday.

"George has voluntarily removed himself from committees as he goes through this process," said Stefanik, who serves as House GOP conference chair.

Asked if she regretted her support for Santos on the campaign trail, Stefanik said: "Ultimately, voters make this decision about who they elect to Congress."

Santos has admitted lying about his education and work experience.

Subsequent reporting has debunked many of his assertions about his biography while running for office last year — including statements his mother died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that his grandparents were Holocaust survivors.

Congressional Democrats, who have argued that Santos should be barred from access to classified information provided to members of Congress, questioned Santos' move to temporarily step away from his committee assignments.

"They defended putting him on committees and now they’re announcing that he’s not going to serve on a committee. So I just don’t understand what the play of the day is," Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said during a news conference with other House Democrats on Tuesday.

Importance of committee work

Former Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, of Oyster Bay, who held the 3rd District seat before retiring from Congress in 2017, said by not participating in committee meetings, Santos will be skipping out on a key part of his congressional duties.

“One thing I learned in sixteen years in Congress is that most of the hard work is done in committees," said Israel, who heads Cornell University's Institute of Politics and Global Affairs.

"That’s where bipartisan relations are formed, where legislation important to your district is crafted, where you can advocate for your constituents," Israel said in an email. "We’re now paying George Santos not to do the hard work.”

Santos' communications director, Naysa Woomer, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Santos' announcement comes as McCarthy also is looking to shore up support for his bid to oust Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

McCarthy had pledged previously to boot Omar from the committee over remarks she made in 2021 about Israeli-Palestinian relations that some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described as antisemitic.

Omar apologized for the statements but a group of right-flank Republicans have been calling for her removal.

McCarthy can only afford to lose the vote of four Republicans to succeed in his effort, but already two Republicans have said they will vote against Omar's removal.

Santos told the outlet Axios he planned to vote in favor of Omar's removal.

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