Rep. George Santos outside the Capitol in Washington Wednesday.

Rep. George Santos outside the Capitol in Washington Wednesday. Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

On Wednesday, the House’s Republican majority derailed as expected a Democratic-led effort to force a vote to expel indicted Rep. George Santos — whose grim political future now seems to depend on a gnarly mix of congressional, judicial, and electoral processes.

By a 224-203 party-line vote, Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s thin majority referred the expulsion measure to the House Ethics Committee instead of putting the matter before the full chamber. That exercise gives the minority party under conference leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries a bit of fleeting public relations material. They can say without contradiction that their rivals balked at ridding a fabulist and alleged criminal from their midst.

But beyond the shallow optics, Jeffries and his conference — and GOP Long Island members Anthony D’Esposito and Nick LaLota — all knew before trying to advance the measure that the norm in Congress is to let the ethics panel finish probing allegations first. And in past cases, expulsions from Congress followed convictions, not indictments.

But betrayed and disgusted voters of all political persuasions in the 3rd Congressional District want Santos, a chronic liar and poseur, out of the job right away.

That prompts the question of how the Justice Department, which has charged Santos with multiple counts of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and lying to Congress, will move ahead. It’s practical to surmise that in exchange for a resignation, prosecutors might grant Santos leniency in a plea deal. His departure from office needs to be a priority.

For now, the timing of whatever lies ahead shapes the fight to succeed him. If Santos suddenly gets religion or a good offer and quits before Aug. 9, Gov. Kathy Hochul must call a special election within the subsequent 90 days. If the vacancy comes after Aug. 9, but not too far into the fall, a special for the seat would be held on the same ballot as the general election Nov. 7.

One big twist: In special elections, nominees are chosen by party officials. In 2024, the regular congressional-cycle election next year, primary contests can develop. No potential candidate at this point can claim they will "beat" Santos for the CD3 job; he is unlikely to be on a ballot again. All the potential horses are far from the starting gate, collecting campaign funds that may never be used in a congressional race.

Once Santos’ varied deceptions about who he was and what he did for a living began collapsing after his surprise election win, a rare consensus to push him out quickly formed. Except for a few extremist and erratic House members, Republicans in Washington know Santos has no redeeming value. His delusions of adequacy aside, Santos’ constituents are not represented. He needs to go — no matter which legitimate process makes that happen soonest.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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