Rep. George Santos railed against fellow lawmakers, describing Congress as “chaos,” just hours before the U.S. House was expected to consider a measure to expel him. NewsdayTV's Virginia Huie reports. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca; AP; File Footage

WASHINGTON — Rep. George Santos will face a third expulsion vote on Friday after the U.S. House of Representatives debated the indicted lawmaker’s future during an hourlong exchange Thursday in which he defied calls to resign and vowed “not to stand by quietly.”

Speaking on the House floor, Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) said expelling him from Congress without a criminal conviction in court would break with precedent of past expulsions.

"Every member expelled in the history of this institution has been convicted of crimes or [were] Confederate turncoats, guilty of treason. Neither of those apply to me, but here we are," Santos said.

Republicans divided

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park), leading the debate in favor of expulsion, called on lawmakers to consider the findings in a 55-page report filed by the House Ethics Committee before Thanksgiving. The report found Santos used campaign funds for personal expenses such as designer clothing and Botox treatments.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Rep. George Santos will face an expulsion vote in the House of Representatives on Friday after an hourlong debate Thursday in which Santos defied calls to resign and vowed “not to stand by quietly.”
  • Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park) called on lawmakers to consider a 55-page ethics report that found Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) used campaign funds for personal expenses such as designer clothing and Botox treatments.
  • Santos has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal criminal charges that stem primarily from allegations Santos defrauded campaign donors during the 2022 election cycle.

"If we do not take the ethics committee and their results seriously, why even have the committee in the first place?" D'Esposito said.

Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville), speaking in support of expulsion, told lawmakers that New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which covers parts of Queens and Nassau counties, is “being denied real representation” with Santos still in office.

“Their representative is incapable of getting a bill passed, a project funded, or even sitting on a committee because he lacks the minimum amount of trust necessary of a member of Congress,” LaLota said.

Santos found support among three right-flank Republicans — Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Clay Higgins (R-La.) and Troy Nehls (R-Texas) — who spoke against expulsion.

"I’m stunned members would cheer for this public shaming and expulsion,” Higgins said. “It’s like witnessing an otherwise fair and compassionate village gathered to celebrate the burning of an alleged witch.”

Visitors to the U.S. Capitol filled a few sections of the public galleries above the House floor and were silent during the hourlong debate — except for some who laughed out loud after Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), Ethics Committee chairman, said Santos paid “almost $3,000 on Botox treatments.”

Santos decries expulsion move

Earlier in the day, at a news conference outside the Capitol, Santos railed against fellow lawmakers, calling the efforts to oust him "theater for the American people."

He continued: “If the House wants to start [a] different precedent and expel me, that is going to be the undoing of a lot of members of this body, because this will haunt them in the future where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from office when duly elected by their people in their respective states.”

Santos has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal criminal charges, including wire fraud and identity theft. The charges stem primarily from allegations that Santos defrauded campaign donors during the 2022 election cycle.

Despite his defiant tone in the House chamber and at the news conference, Santos, in speaking to a small group of reporters before the debate, appeared resigned to the possibility he would be removed from office on Friday.

“Whatever comes my way … I will accept it and I will move on with my life,” he said. “I'm 35 years old, I have a lot of life left to live.”

Third expulsion attempt

Santos survived two other expulsion efforts that ultimately fizzled as some lawmakers raised concerns about taking a vote before the Ethics Committee completed its probe. But some Republicans and Democrats who voted against his ouster have since said they would back expulsion based on the ethics report. Two-thirds of the chamber must vote in favor of the expulsion measure.

After watching the debate, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), chair of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, said Santos should be expelled if he’s convicted, but not before.

Perry said he expected a “close” vote on Friday.

Also Thursday, Santos filed an expulsion measure against Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-Westchester), who pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge of pulling a fire alarm in a congressional office building. Bowman has said he pulled the alarm thinking it would open a door to leave the Cannon House Office Building as he tried to reach the House chamber for a vote. But Santos argued the alarm delayed voting on a short-term funding package and that Bowman should be "charged with obstructing a congressional hearing."

Bowman said in a statement: "This is just another meaningless stunt in his long history of cons, antics and outright fraud."

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) said he would leave it up to his caucus members to decide how to vote on Santos' expulsion as an “an issue of conscience,” but predicted there would be "a bipartisan vote to expel tomorrow.”

Jeffries, speaking at the House Democratic leadership’s weekly news conference before the debate, downplayed concerns House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has expressed about setting a new precedent for removing House members from office before a criminal conviction.

The only precedent would be “if you are an unadulterated serial fraudster who has broken ethics laws, pled guilty to committing financial crimes in Brazil and is facing a litany of accusations related to serious violations of federal law, then perhaps you should be held accountable in the House of Representatives,” Jeffries said.

Santos, who has said he will not seek reelection in 2024, told reporters Thursday he planed to remain active in politics after he leaves office.

"I won't rest until I see Donald Trump back in the White House," Santos said.

He said he has started to receive texts with potential job offers. But he declined to provide details, saying only some were related to the media and the entertainment industries.

Speaking to Newsday after the floor debate, D’Esposito didn’t offer a prediction about the vote Friday, but said he was ready to be done with Santos.

“What I don't want to do is spend any more days talking about George Santos,” he said. “And I really hope that tomorrow we're one step closer.”

EXPULSION PROCEDURE

The decision by the House Friday on whether to expel Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) will come down to a numbers game.

The U.S. Constitution allows the House to force members out of office with the approval of two-thirds of those voting. If all 435 members vote, 290 of them must vote to expel Santos — and that means lawmakers from both parties must approve.

There are 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats in the House.

Supporters of Santos’ expulsion are counting on Democrats to provide most of the votes. A month ago, 155 Democrats and only 24 Republicans voted to expel Santos. That means supporters of expelling Santos will need another 111 votes Friday.

Tom Brune

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