Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) moved to force a vote on a resolution to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) on Tuesday, upping the pressure on House Republicans to take action against the GOP lawmaker who was indicted on 13 federal charges last week.
Garcia — who introduced the resolution to expel Santos in February — called the measure to the floor as a privileged resolution Tuesday, forcing Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to act on the resolution within two legislative days, which sets a Thursday deadline.
McCarthy can either call a motion to table or refer the resolution to the Ethics Committee — both of which would require a simple majority vote — or bring the expulsion resolution to the floor, which needs two-thirds support to pass.
On Tuesday, the Speaker said he wants to refer the resolution to the Ethics Committee, urging the panel to examine the matter “quickly.” The Ethics Committee, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, launched an investigation into Santos in March.
“I think the George Santos indictment is very serious,” McCarthy told reporters. “I also know in America you’re innocent till proven guilty. But I don’t want to sit around and wait. So what I would like to do is move this to Ethics.”
It is unlikely a vote to expel Santos would pass if it came to the floor. But Garcia on Tuesday emphasized his effort was in part meant to compel House Republicans to take a public position on whether Santos — the indicted congressman who has drawn significant scrutiny amid questions about his biography and finances — should remain in the House.
“Now’s the appropriate time to make sure that Republicans are on record if they’re gonna actually stand by someone that is a serial liar and a fraud,” Garcia told reporters on Tuesday. “And they’re gonna have to record a vote, and the American people will be watching their votes.”
More George Santos coverage from The Hill:
- Democrats call out Santos’s felony charges at DC crime hearing
- George Santos owns up to theft charges in Brazil, signs deal to avoid prosecution
- Santos votes for bill cracking down on COVID unemployment fraud as he faces charges
- Five things to know about George Santos’s indictment
- McCarthy won’t back Rep. Santos for reelection after indictment
In a statement to Punchbowl News on Tuesday, Santos accused Garcia and Democrats of “playing the roles of bias judge and jury.”
“Fortunately, justice is blind in our country, and every one is innocent until proven guilty. Regrettably so Rep. Garcia and the democrats are playing the roles of bias judge and jury. Expelling me is silencing 145k+ voters who sent me here to represent them and taking the voice away from 700k people,” he wrote.
A handful of Republicans have already endorsed expelling Santos from Congress. Reps. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) and Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) all expressed support for expulsion earlier this year, and after charges were dropped against the congressman last week, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) joined the fray.
But even with those voices and support from Democrats — Garcia said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and his leadership team have been “aware and involved” with the expulsion resolution — the effort almost certainly lacks the two-thirds support needed to pass.
Only five House members have ever been expelled, and three of them came in 1861. Most recently, former Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) was expelled in 2002 after being convicted of 10 federal charges, including bribery and racketeering.
The escalation from Garcia comes nearly one week after Santos was indicted on seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. He is accused of misleading campaign donors, fraudulently receiving COVID-19 unemployment benefits and lying on financial disclosure forms.
Santos pleaded not guilty and has said he does not plan to resign despite bipartisan calls from his colleagues to step down from his seat.
House GOP leadership has notably stopped short of calling for Santos’s resignation, instead arguing the legal process should play out before making any decisions.
The effort by Garcia also comes on the heels of Santos signing an agreement with public prosecutors in Brazil to avoid being prosecuted in a case stemming from an incident in 2008. The development came one day after he was indicted in the U.S.
The New York Times, citing Brazilian court records, previously reported that Santos in 2008 stole a checkbook that belonged to a man his mother was caring for, then made purchases totaling nearly $700 using the checkbook and a fake name. He reportedly admitted to the crime in 2010 and one year later, a judge approved the charge. The court and Brazilian prosecutor, however, had told the Times the case was not settled.
The congressman’s attorney in Brazil told The Associated Press last week, “What would have been the start of a case was ended today,” adding, “As such, my client is no longer the subject of any case in Brazil.”
He did not offer specifics of the agreement, but Bruno Simões, the victim in the case, told CNN that Santos confessed to the crimes of the case.
Garcia on Tuesday pointed to the development in Brazil.
“It’s very clear that he’s a liar. He’s a fraud. And besides the 13 counts that just happened which are all very serious, I think what’s more important to note is that he’s already admitted to actual criminal activity, to actual fraud, in Brazil,” Garcia told reporters.
Updated at 6:14 p.m.