© Reuters. The office door of U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is seen the morning after two Democratic lawmakers moved to force a vote to expel Santos from the House of Representatives, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 29, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
By Moira Warburton and David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on Friday on whether to expel scandal-plagued Republican George Santos, who faces criminal corruption charges and new accusations that he misspent campaign money, according to Republican aides.
Several lawmakers have introduced motions targeting the first-term lawmaker after a report by his House colleagues suggested that federal prosecutors should bring additional charges against Santos, 35, who fabricated large aspects of his life story in his election campaign.
The motion requires a two-thirds majority in the House, which Republicans control by a narrow 222-213 majority.
House Speaker Mike Johnson said party leaders will not tell rank-and-file Republicans how to vote because some believe he should not be kicked out before his criminal case is resolved.
“I personally have real reservations about doing this. I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set,” he said at a news conference.
Johnson said earlier in the day that the vote would take place on Thursday, but Republican aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said later it is expected for Friday.
Santos’ district, which includes a small slice of New York City and some of its eastern suburbs, is seen as competitive.
The bipartisan Ethics Committee on Nov. 16 released a report on allegations that Santos committed campaign finance fraud. It documented a pattern of poor bookkeeping and misuse of campaign funds so pervasive that his election “has called into question the integrity of the House.”
Santos previously pleaded not guilty to federal charges by prosecutors in New York of laundering campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and charging the credit cards of donors without permission, among other campaign finance violations.
Santos did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
WILL NOT STEP DOWN
Santos said after the release of the report that he would not run for reelection in 2024, but refused to step down before then.
The Ethics Committee said it referred more “uncharged and unlawful conduct” to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution, including new evidence of falsely reported loans received by Santos’ unsuccessful 2020 congressional campaign, improper loan repayments and “systemic reporting errors” in both his 2020 and 2022 campaigns.
The report also detailed extravagant – and possibly illegal – spending of campaign money, including thousands of dollars on Botox, luxury brands such as Hermes, and “smaller purchases” from OnlyFans, a website known for sexual content.
A vote on Nov. 1 to expel Santos failed because Republicans need Santos’ seat to protect their narrow House majority, which empowers them to block much of Democratic President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
But it is unclear whether Santos will receive the same support a second time. A number of the 182 Republicans who voted against expulsion have come out to say they would not do the same again.
Santos first came into the public eye when media outlets revealed he’d fabricated almost every aspect of his personal and professional history, including working at Goldman Sachs and Citibank and graduating from New York University.
The reports caused him to be shunned by many of his House colleagues and made him the frequent butt of jokes by late-night TV comedians.
Santos has since admitted to fabricating large parts of his resume.