Republican George Santos Expelled from Congress in Historic Vote
The House of Representatives voted to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), a former drag queen accused of spending campaign funds on his honeymoon after his same-sex marriage, from Congress in a 311-114 bipartisan vote Friday morning. Santos, who stands accused of breaking 23 laws including spending campaign funds to finance his lavish personal lifestyle, has become the 21st person ever expelled from Congress — an action the House last took 21 years ago.
“George Santos violated not only the rules of the House, but every moral standard that this House has ever had,” said Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) shortly before the vote.
Prosecutors have indicted Santos on 23 charges — 10 felonies and 13 misdemeanors — including racketeering, bribery, and fraud.
“He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit,” reported The House Ethics Committee in a 56-page report released November 16.
Among his alleged financial crimes, Santos stands accused of using campaign finances to pay for his honeymoon after marrying a man purportedly named Matt. Santos placed “taxi and hotel charges on the campaign credit card” from a trip to “Las Vegas in December 2021, during a time when Representative Santos had told his campaign staff that he was on his honeymoon” after contracting a legal, same-sex marriage.
Santos also spent restricted funds for personal trips to Atlantic City, a subscription to the pornographic website OnlyFans, expensive clothing, Botox injections, and Sephora jewelry, the report claims.
Santos has long been a lightning rod since flipping a previously Democratic district in New York to Republican. The media subsequently revealed that Santos lied to voters about his education, work experience at financial titans Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, being Jewish, and having relatives who fled the Holocaust. Democrats failed to expel the controversial and flamboyant congressman on two previous occasions, in May and October.
With Friday’s vote, George Santos became the 21st person to be expelled from Congress, and the sixth person to be cast out of the House of Representatives. All but three had supported the Confederacy; one had also shown disloyalty to the country, and two had already been convicted of felonies. Congress last expelled a member, Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio), in 2002.
“I’ll be the first person to get expelled from Congress without a conviction or without committing treason,” Santos told “Fox and Friends” shortly before the vote. The congressman’s trial will commence next September. Santos, who has entered a not guilty plea to all charges, said his removal “will haunt [Congress] in the future, where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from office when duly elected by their people in their respective states and districts.”
While many worried about precedent, Democrats dismissed the idea that justice should determine congressional membership.
“The concept of being innocent until proven guilty does not exist in the Congress of the United States,” said Goldman. “It is not sufficient to be a member of Congress simply to not be a criminal. Our standards for who should vote on critical legislation, who should see classified information, who should represent 776,000 Americans in this body, does not hinge on whether or not you’re simply a criminal.”
The Founding Fathers foresaw the possibility of base politicians ascending to Congress. In the Federalist Paper (No. 57), the Founders wrote that voters would remove them through “the restraint of frequent elections,” by which voters would continue “keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.” The founders believed leaders must possess “wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society.”
Some Republicans hoped expelling Santos would quell the media’s feeding frenzy. “We didn’t want to spend the first 11 months talking about George Santos and I hope today is the beginning of not having to talk about him,” said Rep Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.).
But the Democratic Party has increasingly turned to extra-political efforts to limit Republicans. House Democrats introduced a bill to expel Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), whom they had stripped of all committee assignments, shortly after her election. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) introduced a bill to expel every sitting Republican from Congress, because they voted against Democratic legislation to nationalize elections.
The removal of Santos reduces the Republicans to a four-seat majority in the House, where they now control 211 seats.
Under New York election law, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) has 10 days to schedule a special election to choose Santos’s successor, and the election must take place within 70 to 80 days. Santos won election in his swing district after incumbent Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, resigned to mount an unsuccessful primary challenge against Hochul. Suozzi is expected to run for his former seat. The Cook Political Report declares the seat a “toss up” race that could be won by any Democrat, much less the former incumbent. New York Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs has announced he will name the party’s candidate next Tuesday.
The ouster was opposed by the four top-ranking Republicans in House leadership: Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.), House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). The leadership did not whip Republicans either way, declaring it a conscience vote.
In all, 105 Republicans joined most Democrats in voting to overturn the election of their colleague. Two Democrats — Reps. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Nikema Williams of Georgia — voted against the measure, H. Res. 878, and two more voted “present.”
Eight members of Congress — including former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), 2024 Democratic presidential hopeful Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — did not vote on George Santos’s expulsion.
Santos had vowed to fight the third expulsion attempt to the bitter end, describing himself as the Republican “It Girl” and the “Mary Magdalene of the United States Congress.” On the eve of the vote, Santos announced he would file a bill to expel Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), the Democrat caught on video pulling a fire alarm in order to prevent a congressional vote, from the House.
But Santos revealed Friday morning that some semblance of religious faith helped him accept his fate. “I believe that if it’s God’s will to keep me here, I will stay,” he said. “And if it is His will for me to leave, I will leave, and I will do so graciously.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.