Rep. George Santos was removed from office by the House of Representatives on Dec. 1, dividing Republicans. Some believe he wasn't given due process, since the criminal charges against him haven't played out yet, and believe Republicans need to start playing hardball with the Democrats and stop deserting our own, especially since the GOP controls the House by a narrow margin.
They believe it should be up to the voters in his district to get rid of him. Others disagree, pointing out that if we excuse the worst on our side, then we have no standards.
Most seriously, Santos was accused of using campaign donors' money for personal expenses including OnlyFans (former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. went to prison for the same thing), stealing the identities of campaign donors and then using their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges, and reimbursing himself for several hundred thousand dollars in loans to his congressional campaign that he appears to have never actually made.
Things got worse among his colleagues when Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, told CNN, "Mr. Santos' [campaign] took not only my credit card, personally, he took my mother's credit card, personally, and he swiped them both for an additional $5,000, marking it as an 'over-donation.' … He defrauded more than 350 people for hundreds of thousands of dollars."
In May, Santos was indicted on 13 criminal charges including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. Two of his former campaign aides pleaded guilty to related fraud charges. The House Ethics Committee put together a bipartisan report that found "overwhelming evidence" of lawbreaking by Santos, corroborating many of the allegations. However, it did not recommend expulsion, since Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., explained that doing so would have involved a "much longer process."
Santos was also accused of scamming $3,000 from a GoFundMe campaign for a disabled veteran's dying service dog, embellishing his resume by stating he'd graduated from college and pretending to be a star on the volleyball team, saying he worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, claiming that he was Jewish and that his grandparents fled the Holocaust, claiming his mother was in New York on 9/11 and estimating his net worth at roughly $11 million. Most of that boasting he has since admitted was false.
The House of Representatives voted 311-114 to expel Santos, well over the two-thirds required. All Democrats except four and more than 100 Republicans – about half – voted to expel him. He is the sixth member ever to be expelled. Democrats Michael Myers and James Traficant were expelled after being convicted of bribery, and three men were expelled for supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., a constitutional lawyer, said he was concerned about the precedent of expelling a member who had not yet been convicted of a crime. Byron York, writing for the Washington Examiner, expressed his concern that this expulsion broke with prior precedent; other than the Civil War expulsions, previous members were expelled after convictions. However, other members of Congress believe the ethics committee's investigation provided enough due process.
Article I, Section 5, of the Constitution, states that both chambers can expel a member, unconditionally. It doesn't say anything about motive or rationale, nor does it say there must be due process.
Kevin R. Kosar, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, argued at The Hill that it could become a slippery slope.
"[I]f the House behaves as if it is free to scrutinize members and boot them out, then what is to stop partisan majorities from doing that to partisan minorities?" he asked. Similarly, Matthew Hale, a Seton Hall University political science professor, cautioned, "If you don't like somebody, you could just get them indicted and get them out."
One of the four Democrats who voted against the expulsion or voted present, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said he was concerned it could be used as a precedent to target black members of Congress.
However, was Santos ousted just over the indictment? There were plenty of things he said that he admitted later were lies.
Some are concerned that it leaves the GOP with a slim majority, but Republicans still hold eight more seats than Democrats, 221-213. There will be a special election to replace Santos, and since it is a competitive district, a Democrat or more liberal Republican might replace him. Santos introduced numerous conservative bills this past year, although they didn't get anywhere. Some believe since Santos already served almost half of his two year term, so why not let him finish it out and let the voters decide whether to oust him? His trial isn't set to begin until Sept. 9, 2024.
The Democrats refuse to remove some of their most corrupt members. Even though he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for pulling a fire alarm when there was no emergency, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., was merely reprimanded. He was apparently trying to stall a vote on a GOP funding extension. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., lied multiple times about Russian collusion with the Trump campaign but was only censured.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has been indicted but is still in the Senate. He is accused of exchanging favors for gifts, cash and gold bars. He's charged with conspiracy to act as a foreign agent for the Egyptian government. Weirdly, Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., has been loudly pointing out the double standard, calling for Menendez to go.
It comes down to where we draw the line. We all know politicians lie, so do we finally say enough when it becomes painfully clear? There is a lot of corruption in Congress, and members are terrible at policing themselves, especially the Democrats. This wasn't a black and white decision. Do we hold our politicians up to high standards, unlike the Democrats, allowing them to grab seats from us? It's a miserable dilemma.