A group of New York Republicans passed on punishing George Santos once. Some of them say they won’t do it again.
House Democrats are planning to force a censure vote within the next two weeks on the New York GOP’s biggest political liability. It’ll come roughly two months after their last attempt to discipline the indicted Republican on the floor, which resulted in a dayslong scramble by Speaker Kevin McCarthy to convince his frustrated bloc of New Yorkers not to vote with Democrats to end Santos’ congressional career.
This time, Democrats will push a less severe vote — a censure, instead of a full-on expulsion. And at least six Republicans told POLITICO they would support the measure if it comes to the House floor for a vote: Reps. Nick Lalota, Marc Molinaro, Anthony D’Esposito, Nick Langworthy and Mike Lawler, all New Yorkers, as well as Ohio’s Max Miller. All six Republicans have already called on Santos to resign as he faces a litany of federal charges.
“I was the first to call for his resignation. I’ve said on the floor that he is a stain to our institution and I’d vote to censure,” D’Esposito said.
If all Democrats supported the measure, that would be enough GOP support to adopt it. And other Republicans are entertaining a vote for it as well.
The timing of the censure push is also key to getting more Republican support, according to lawmakers and aides. When McCarthy convinced his members to punt Democrats’ expulsion attempt to the Ethics Committee, some of them said they’d give the panel 60 days to determine whether Santos should be kicked out of Congress or face disciplinary measures. Now, just over 60 days out with no additional findings from the notoriously slow Ethics panel, Democrats are holding them to their word.
In a rare public statement on an ongoing investigation, that committee’s leaders, Reps. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and Susan Wild (D-Pa.), said at the end of last month their investigation had already issued over 30 subpoenas and 40 voluntary information requests as the probe progressed. Ethics leaders were also working to make sure their probe didn’t conflict with the Department of Justice’s investigation into Santos.
Still, Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) alleged in a press release Tuesday that McCarthy made “another false promise designed to protect Santos,” claiming the GOP leader said the Ethics Committee would work within that 60-day timeline. Goldman was joined by Reps. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), who is leading the new Santos censure measure.
“A censure should be uncontroversial,” Torres said Tuesday. “If you have informally condemned Mr. Santos, you should have no trouble censuring him.”
Their vote — like the one in May — has special “privileged” powers and will come to the floor regardless of McCarthy’s wishes. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) used the same process last month to bring up a measure censuring Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for his leading role in investigations into former President Donald Trump.
Unlike the expulsion vote, which needed two-thirds of members voting in support, the censure measure only requires a simple majority. But not all of Santos’ GOP critics are on board.
“We have a lot of shit going on in Congress right now — George Santos is the least of my problems,” said Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.). “I think at the end of the day he is just not going to win reelection, and there’s a very good chance that he ends up in jail. It’ll sort itself out.“
Democrats haven’t made any final decisions yet on when they might force floor consideration of the censure measure, which would highlight how the first-term Republican “lied to voters in his district, donors, and the American public during his campaign to be elected to Congress.” But the party is expected to do so before the August recess, unless the House Ethics panel acts before then.
Santos declined to comment, but tweeted Monday: “It’s a sad state of affairs to see the politicians play politics over people.” He also called some Republicans “worthless idiots” who aren’t “doing a dam (sic) thing for the people.”