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George Santos’s messy expulsion vote, briefly explained

The scandal-plagued Congress member has finally reached the end of the line.

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) walks back to his office after debate on the House floor on a resolution to expel him from Congress, at the US Capitol, on November 1, 2023 in Washington, DC. 
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

On Friday, scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos (R-NY) officially became the sixth-ever lawmaker to be expelled from the House. Santos’s expulsion followed two previous failed expulsion votes, significant scrutiny of the lies he’s told about his work and personal history, a federal indictment, and a scathing investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

In the end, the House voted 311-114 to expel Santos, with 105 Republicans and 206 Democrats voting in favor of removing him. Two Democrats and 112 Republicans voted against removing him, while two other Democrats voted present.

One big thing that tipped some lawmakers over the edge — and offered Republicans cover to support Santos’s expulsion — was the eight-month investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which was released in mid-November. That report found “substantial evidence” that Santos broke federal law and that he “fraudulently exploit[ed] every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”

Many of Santos’s GOP colleagues gave the findings significant weight because the report was put together by a bipartisan House committee of lawmakers, a fact that gave some members the concrete justification they needed to take action. “I did not vote in the past to expel George because I didn’t believe there was due process,” Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican who had previously opposed expelling Santos, told MSNBC. “I think he’s been given the fair due process now.”

Santos has called the report’s findings “biased” and a “politicized smear” created by colleagues who want him out of office. He told participants in an X Space (an audio chat on the platform formerly known as Twitter) that an expulsion vote wouldn’t be about any charges he may face, but that, “I’ll be expelled because people simply did not like me.”

Santos lobbed other critiques — and threats — at his colleagues ahead of his expulsion, saying, “I will have fun on my way out. Don’t worry about it. And I have plenty of receipts.”

In remarks earlier this week, Santos referred to allegations of domestic violence that Rep. Max Miller (R-OH) has faced, and accused the lawmaker of “hypocrisy.” Previously, Santos has also suggested that some Republicans are engaging in infidelity and excessive drinking rather than properly doing their work. “I have colleagues who are more worried about getting drunk with the next lobbyist that they’re gonna screw and pretend like none of us know what’s going on and sell out the American people,” he said in the X Space.

Following Friday’s vote, Santos kept up his comments, arguing that, “they just set new dangerous precedent for themselves,” adding, “To hell with this place.”

Santos has long maintained that he hasn’t committed any crimes, and pleaded “not guilty” to a 23-count federal indictment in a case that will go to trial next year. Now that he’s been expelled, a special election will be held to find a replacement to serve out the remainder of his term in New York’s third Congressional district.

What the ethics investigation said and how it changed things

The biggest game changer in Santos’s case was the ethics investigation, which concluded that Santos “blatantly stole from his campaign” and that he used campaign funds for personal gain and services including Botox, OnlyFans, and luxury trips.

Additionally, they found he misrepresented the use of these funds to donors and didn’t properly file reports to the Federal Election Commission. The lawmakers referred Santos’s case to the Justice Department for any potential penalties, and shortly after the report’s release, House Ethics Chair Michael Guest (R-MS) filed a resolution for Santos’s expulsion.

Prior to its release, a number of House Republicans said they’d wait until the ethics report came out before they drew definitive conclusions about Santos. These findings, however, were explosive enough that they convinced some of these Republicans to firmly state their support for expulsion and ultimately vote for it. Reps. Greg Murphy (R-NC), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) were among those who changed their positions.

“I purposely waited for the results of the Ethics Committee’s report to come out before passing judgment,” said Murphy in a statement ahead of the vote. “However, given its findings of the facts of this case, I find his behavior reprehensible and not worthy of a member of Congress. I will vote to expel him.”

“The amount of fraud and abuse was something that was unprecedented. We’ve never seen that before,” Guest, who had also voted against Santos’s expulsion prior to the report, told SuperTalk Mississippi Radio.

The investigation’s results add to a whole slew of federal charges and scandals that Santos faces, including the 23-count federal indictment that charges him with identity theft, wire fraud, credit card fraud, and money laundering. That indictment accuses him of making charges on donors’ credit cards without their knowledge and fabricating records about loans and contributions his campaign received.

Beyond the federal charges he faces, Santos has also been scrutinized for lying extensively about his past, including claiming that he had attended Baruch College, that he had worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and that he had Jewish ancestry, all of which have been debunked.

In the past, Republicans have balked at voting to expel Santos not just because the ethics investigation was ongoing but because his district is a competitive one. Santos won the Long Island and Queens district by 8 points in 2022, and since he’s been expelled it’s possible that Democrats could retake it. The Cook Political Report has his district rated as leaning Democratic in 2024.

Both Republicans and Democrats now expect a heavily contested special election to find Santos’s replacement in the coming months.

Update, December 1, 1:05 pm ET: This story was originally published on November 28 and has been updated multiple times, most recently with the outcome of the expulsion vote and Santos’s comments.

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