House Democrats put a measure on the floor to expel Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., from Congress on Tuesday, after he was arrested and charged in federal court last week with money laundering, wire fraud, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress.
The measure, known as a “privileged resolution,” is designed to circumvent the Republican majority in the House to bring it up for a vote within the next two days. Republicans could try to block the measure.
“We believe that George Santos should be expelled months ago,” Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., told Spectrum News after introducing the resolution on Tuesday afternoon. "There hasn't been action, and so now is the appropriate time to make sure that Republicans are on record if they're going to actually stand by someone that is a serial liar and a fraud."
"We're gonna have to record a vote, and the American people are watching their votes," he added.
Garcia repeatedly cited the fact that Santos signed a deal a day after his arrest in the U.S. to avoid prosecution in Brazil over two checks he allegedly stole in 2008 as evidence of criminal behavior that qualifies him for expulsion.
"He's already admitted to a serious crime in Brazil that's not even part of the indictments," Garica said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said “George Santos lied to voters for years as he perpetrated a years-long fraud. He recently admitted criminal wrongdoing. Instead of peddling conspiracy theories about President Biden and his family, House Republicans should expel this serial fraudster from the House of Representatives.”
Introduced in February by Garcia and other Democrats, the measure cites a clause in the U.S. Constitution that allows the House and the Senate to determine discipline for their members, including expulsion with a two-thirds majority.
"I'm not aware of anything. I'll have to call you back," Vish Burra, a top aide in Santos' congressional office, said in a brief phone call Tuesday afternoon. An email to Santos' communication director requesting comment was not returned.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said later Tuesday that he will refer the measure to the House Ethics Committee before deciding on putting it to the floor for a vote.
McCarthy told reporters Tuesday he wants the panel to act "quickly," adding that he believes "there’s enough information out there now" for the panel to review. "I don’t want to wait around for the courts to act.”
"I think they could do this work rather rapidly and come back to the full House and report on what they find," he added.
The scandal-plagued freshman congressman has been under fire from members of both parties, particularly in his home state, but Republican leadership in Congress has so far resisted calls for him to resign, even after he was charged.
With Republicans holding a slim majority in the House, it is unlikely the move will reach the two-thirds threshold, even if Republicans like the six New York freshmen elected alongside Santos in New York last November join Democrats in voting to remove their colleague. All six called for his resignation as early as January.
"I think in America, you're innocent til proven guilty," Speaker McCarthy, who has relied on Santos' support on key votes, said last week before the indictment was made public. "If a person is indicted, they’re not on committees. They have the right to vote, but they have to go to trial."
He later added he would not support Santos for reelection and would call on the congressman to resign if the House Ethics Committee determined he broke the law.
"This whole thing is fraudlent because he is not serving or doing good for anyone. So the faster he can go, the better. He completely delegitimizes this body," said Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Calif. "My understanding is the speaker isn't here and so it may be hard to whip votes and there are a growing number of Republicans that also think he should go."
McCarthy was set to be at the White House on Tuesday afternoon to continue debt celing talks with President Joe Biden.
Santos was released on $500,000 bond after being charged with 13 counts at federal court on Long Island last week. He pleaded not guilty on all charges and declared outside the courthouse "I'm gonna fight my battle, I'm gonna deliver, I'm gonna fight the witch hunt, I'm gonna take care of clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that.”
Prosecutors are alleging Santos convinced supporters to donate to a company he controlled under the guise he would use it for his campaign, but instead spent it on designer clothes and to pay down his credit card and car bills.
He’s also accused of lying on congressional disclosure forms and receiving unemployment benefits even as he was employed at an investment firm the Securities and Exchange Commission eventually shut down in 2021 under suspicions it was a Ponzi scheme. He was not named in the SEC complaint.
As a member of Congress, Santos – now charged with applying for and accepting unlawful unemployment benefits – co-sponsored a bill that would crack down on unemployment fraud.
While it’s unclear if any law has been broken, Santos’ campaign finances have drawn scrutiny for hundreds of thousands of dollars he loaned to himself, despite appearing to not have the assets to have such wealth in the first place.
The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center lodged a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and urged regulators to investigate Santos. The “mountain of lies” Santos propagated during the campaign about his life story and qualifications, the center said, should prompt the commission to “thoroughly investigate what appear to be equally brazen lies about how his campaign raised and spent money.”
In his filings with the FEC, Santos initially said he loaned his campaign and related political action committees more than $750,000 — money he claimed came from a family company.
Yet, the wealth necessary to make those loans seems to have emerged from nowhere. In a financial disclosure statement filed with the clerk of the U.S. House in 2020, Santos said he had no assets and an annual income of $55,000.
His company, the Devolder Organization, wasn’t incorporated until spring 2021. Yet last September, Santos filed another financial disclosure form reporting that this new company, incorporated in Florida, had paid him a $750,000 salary in each of the last two years, plus another $1 million to $5 million in dividends. In one interview, Santos described the Devolder Organization as a business that helped rich people buy things like yachts and aircraft.
Court records indicate Santos was the subject of three eviction proceedings in Queens between 2014 and 2017 because of unpaid rent.
Beyond his legal troubles — Santos’ activities have also drawn attention from local and state prosecutors — the Republican has drawn ire and scrutiny for his frequent and sometimes outrageous lies and misstatements about his resume and life story.
He admitted to lying about being a college graduate, working at prestigious Wall Street firms, and being a descendant of Holocaust survivors, claiming that his grandparents “fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII.”
During his campaign, he referred to himself as “a proud American Jew.”
Confronted with questions about that story, Santos, a Roman Catholic, said he never intended to claim Jewish heritage.
He also claimed four of his employees were killed during the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016 that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded in the deadliest anti-LGBTQ attack in U.S. history. The New York Times concluded that none of the 49 killed “appear to have worked at the various firms named in his biography.”
"George Santos is a fraud, a liar," California Rep. Robert Garcia, a Democrat, said in February when he announced the measure to expel Santos. "He has lied about the most horrific shooting in the LGBTQ modern history, the Pulse nightclub shooting. He's lied about 9/11, he's lied about the Holocaust, he's lied about his education, he's lied about his career.”
A local newspaper, the North Shore Leader, had raised issues about Santos’ background before the election but it was not until a few weeks after the November election that the depth of his duplicity became public.
“He told me, I remember specifically — I’m into sports a little bit — that he was a star on the Baruch [College] volleyball team and that they won the league championship," one local Republican official recalled at a January press conference calling on him to resign.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.