WASHINGTON — A House Democrat took steps Tuesday to force a vote to expel indicted Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., from Congress this week — the second time this month he will face an expulsion vote.
Santos, who admitted to lying about his background and has pleaded not guilty to multiple federal charges, easily survived a vote to oust him on Nov. 1. But he predicts he will be removed from office this time around. Many lawmakers who voted against expulsion now say they will support it following the release of a damning Ethics Committee report on Santos.
A supermajority vote, or two-thirds, is required to expel a member from Congress.
On the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., introduced a “privileged” resolution to expel Santos. Because the resolution is privileged, Republican leadership must bring it to the floor for a vote within two legislative days.
The resolution could be tabled or referred to a committee before it gets a vote. In May, Garcia also tried to force a vote on a similar resolution to expel Santos, but the House voted to refer it to the Ethics Committee instead, triggering a monthslong congressional investigation into Santos.
Speaking to reporters as he left the floor, Garcia said he has spoken to Republican lawmakers, including Santos’ fellow freshmen from New York, and believes he has the votes to expel Santos.
“We’re calling on Mike Johnson, the speaker, to come out and tell his members that he’s going to support the expulsion,” Garcia said.
He was joined on the floor by Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who serves in the New York delegation with Santos.
“We’re tired of waiting. We’re tired of the games that Republicans have played to protect George Santos and their slim majority,” Goldman said. “And it’s time to put up or shut up.”
After the 56-page Santos report was issued, Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., introduced a separate expulsion resolution, but it’s unclear whether he will try to force a vote on it this week, as well.
The blistering Ethics report concluded that Santos had deceived his donors, knowingly filed false campaign finance statements and used his campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including rent, trips, luxury items, cosmetic treatments like Botox and a subscription to the adult content site OnlyFans.
Santos has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to the federal charges. Santos said on X that he told Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., he would be “standing for the expulsion vote” and warned his colleagues that they would be setting a bad precedent if they ousted him before he goes to trial in September.
Santos said Tuesday evening that Johnson had “made a point to say that he was not calling me to ask me to resign” and asked whether he’d made a decision about facing potential expulsion.
“I said yes. I mean, put up or shut up at this point,” Santos said.
Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., who was in a leadership meeting with Johnson on Tuesday evening, said Johnson told other Republicans about the call. “It’s our understanding that the speaker and George have had conversations up until recently even an hour ago, about the right thing possibly to do for him will be to examine the position and resign,” Hern told reporters after he left the speaker’s office.
Asked whether Johnson encouraged Santos to resign, Hern clarified: “He did not say that. He said that that would be certainly an option that would prevent a lot of people from having to take some very tough votes.”
In modern times, the House has expelled just two members, but only after they were convicted of federal crimes.
“Expel me and set the precedent so we can see who the judge, jury and executioners in Congress are,” Santos said on X.
The precedent argument isn’t resonating with some lawmakers. Former Ethics Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., voted against expulsion this month to give her former panel time to complete its wide-ranging report. But she said in a lengthy statement Tuesday that she was now prepared to expel Santos given that the report was detailed in nature and backed unanimously by the bipartisan committee.
“Precedents of the House are important guidelines to ensure proper, consistent actions,” Lofgren said. “But every precedent had a first time, and precedents should not prevent the House from acting when prudence dictates the creation of a new precedent or a variation from precedent.”
“In the matter of Rep. Santos,” she added, “rigid adherence to the requirement of a felony conviction prior to expulsion would, in essence, delegate the responsibilities of the legislative branch to the executive and judicial branches.”
Santos’ team also makes the argument that Republicans who support his ouster would undermine the GOP’s already razor-thin majority and could risk a government shutdown when funding for some agencies runs out in mid-January and the rest lapses in early February.
“The Santos team is confident the House GOP will not compromise the critical work of funding the government by testing the strength of an already tenuous margin for majority,” a congressional GOP source said.
Johnson, who declined to comment about Santos on Tuesday, already doesn’t have much wiggle room to pass legislation. Republican Celeste Maloy of Utah will be sworn in Tuesday night, filling the seat left vacant after GOP Rep. Chris Stewart resigned. With Maloy sworn in, the House will be back at full capacity with 435 members — 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats.
Removing Santos would lower the GOP majority back to 221. Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said he will leave Congress in a few months to accept a job as a college president. That would lower the majority to 220.
If any other Republicans resign early, it would narrow the majority even further. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has said that he won’t resign and that he intends to serve out his full term. But if he did leave early, it would make Johnson’s job managing the conference even more difficult.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com