WASHINGTON — Indicted Rep. George Santos was expelled from Congress on Friday, in a historic vote that marked the end of his scandal-plagued 11 months in office representing New York's 3rd Congressional District.
Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) was stripped of his seat after a bipartisan two-thirds of U.S. House members approved his ouster. The vote came after release of a damning report, approved unanimously by the House Ethics Committee, that accused the first-term lawmaker of defrauding campaign donors for his personal profit.
The vote was 311 "Yes," 114 "No" and two "Present."
The buzzing chamber fell silent once the vote took place, with only a few Democrats applauding the result. As they left afterward, several lawmakers described the mood in the chamber as “somber.”
WHAT TO KNOW
- Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) was expelled from Congress in a vote that marked the end of his short House career.
- The 311-114 vote, with two members voting "present," came after release of a House Ethics Committee report that accused Santos of defrauding campaign donors for his personal profit.
- Santos is the sixth member of Congress to be expelled — and the first to be removed without a criminal conviction.
Santos, who was seated at the back of the chamber as voting started, went to retrieve his jacket as the tally in favor of expulsion climbed. Once voting stopped he made his way down the center aisle, eventually leaving the chamber to be picked up by an aide in a black van parked outside.
"To hell with this place," Santos told reporters before departing.
Santos is only the sixth member of Congress to be expelled — and the first to be removed without a criminal conviction.
The first three lost their seats in 1861 over their support for the Confederate rebellion as the Civil War began. The House voted to expel Rep. Michael Myers (D-Pa.) in 1980 for his bribery conviction in the Abscam scandal — a sting operation in which FBI agents posed as Middle East oil dealers offering bribes — and Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) in 2002 for his conviction on federal charges such as bribery, corruption and tax evasion.
Ethics report shifted votes
The Nov. 16 release of the ethics report prompted dozens of lawmakers who previously had voted against Santos’ expulsion to change their minds. Many said the report’s findings provided ample reason to expel Santos after two failed attempts.
The 55-page report, citing campaign bank records and interviews with former campaign aides, accused Santos of using campaign funds for personal expenses such as Botox treatments and hotel stays.
Santos has called such purchases legitimate campaign expenses, but has refused to discuss other allegations that he fraudulently reported tens of thousands of dollars in campaign loans he never made, only to reimburse himself with actual campaign donations.
House leaders oppose expulsion
Before the vote Friday, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R- Schuylerville), the top-ranking New York Republican, all said they would vote against expelling Santos.
The GOP leadership lining up against expulsion was not enough to move enough votes in Santos' favor — 105 Republicans voted to remove Santos, and 112 voted against it. Democrats provided the bulk of the votes for expulsion with 206 voting for Santos' removal. Two Democrats voted against it, and two voted "present."
In an hourlong debate on Thursday, Santos had denounced the expulsion motion, saying it would break with precedent of past expulsions that came after members had been convicted in court.
New York congressional leaders said Santos' ouster was long overdue, arguing that his fabrications about his life story, including assertions he was the descendant of Holocaust survivors, misled voters in his district.
Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park), who on Tuesday introduced the motion that led to Santos' expulsion, said in an interview after the vote: "It's a sad day."
"I wish that we never had to come to this," D'Esposito said. "Santos should have held himself accountable and resigned. But he chose to go through this process. And it has been talked about that this set a new precedent. It was one that didn't have to be set."
D'Esposito added, "And now I look forward to allowing the entire 118th Congress to focus on what's important."
Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) told Newsday: "Eleven months in, we're finally able to hold one of our own accountable so that we can move forward on fixing the things that we came to Washington to fix."
"The House today did its constitutional duty," said Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport), an Ethics Committee member.
"I think there was a lot of allegations and a lot of evidence in that report, and I think a lot of members read it, which is why a lot of people supported the expulsion today that did not support it back in November," Garbarino told Newsday.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) said the bipartisan vote represented "an important step forward in ensuring that the House of Representatives has a basic standard of professionalism as we endeavor to solve problems on behalf of hardworking American taxpayers."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a short statement after the vote, said: “Long Island and Queens deserve better.”
Santos' expulsion came nearly a year after The New York Times published a story unpacking numerous falsehoods Santos offered on the campaign trail, including degrees he never obtained and prestigious Wall Street jobs he never held. He later admitted fabricating key parts of his resume and entered office under intense scrutiny, with reporters following him throughout the U.S. Capitol, protesters demonstrating outside his office and multiple agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice probing his campaign operation.
On Friday, Capitol visitors took photos outside Santos' former office in the Longworth House Office Building. The nameplate outside his door was replaced with a sign reading, "Office of the Third Congressional District of New York."
Jody Kass Finkel of Great Neck, coordinator for the anti-Santos group Concerned Citizens of NY-03, said she and others watched the debate Thursday and the vote Friday from the public gallery above the House floor.
"We're thrilled, obviously, with the outcome," she said, "but we also think that there needs to be a reckoning on how we ended up with this impostor, this charlatan, this criminal as our congressman for 11 months."
Santos' Chief of Staff Marcus Dunn said he spoke to Santos after the vote: "He seemed resolved."
Santos' federal criminal trial is scheduled to start Sept. 9 in U.S. District Court in Central Islip. He has pleaded not guilty to all 23 charges.
HOW LI MEMBERS VOTED
Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park): Yes
Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport): Yes
Nick LaLota (R-Amityville): Yes
George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens): No
Source: Office of the Clerk, House of Representatives