When a handful of House Republicans in the New York area rushed a half baked expulsion effort against George Santos to the floor earlier this month, it was clear that there weren’t enough Republicans to allow for even the possibility of expulsion. Accordingly, a number of House Democrats also voted against expelling Santos.
Jamie Raskin explained that he didn’t think it was appropriate to expel someone without first seeing a conviction or an official ethics report. Not all observers were satisfied with that explanation. But I pointed out that House Democrats probably knew something we didn’t, and that if we trusted them overall, then we had to trust them on this matter as well.
Now we’re getting a much better understanding of why House Democrats handled it the way they did. The House Ethics Committee report on George Santos was released this week, and it’s even more ugly than we were expecting. It also came with an official bipartisan criminal referral for even more charges against Santos, and an official bipartisan Ethics Committee motion to expel Santos.
It’s still not clear if there are enough Republican votes to allow Santos’ expulsion to happen. Some of these House Republicans in the more vulnerable districts have concluded that their own personal prospects for reelection in 2024 are improved by ousting Santos. Now that the Santos scandal is getting even uglier, that number will likely grow. We don’t know if it’ll be enough. But it might be.
If there are enough Republican votes this time, you can bet that the House Democrats will join in and put the Santos expulsion over the top. In such case no one will be able to argue that House Democrats are being opportunistic or partisan by voting to expel him, given that just a few weeks ago they made a point of refusing to expel him until all the evidence was in.
Given that there are a number of Democrats on the House Ethics Committee, it’s likely that the entire Democratic House caucus knew roughly how ugly the George Santos report was going to be. They were smart to wait for it before throwing their weight behind expulsion. House Democrats couldn’t have expelled Santos a few weeks ago even if they’d all voted for it. But now they can expel Santos in a way that can’t be used against them.
Let’s also keep in mind that even if this next Santos expulsion effort fails, there’s every reason to expect that there will continue to be more Santos expulsion votes going forward. There are a number of House Republicans who definitely want it to happen, so they’ll keep trying. We have to be prepared for the possibility that we’ll be gearing up for a special election to replace Santos at any time. The leading Democratic candidate to replace him is Anna Kaplan. Get to know her.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report