(Bloomberg) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he wants the Ethics Committee to launch an expedited review of scandal-plagued Representative George Santos as Democrats seek to expel the New York Republican from Congress.
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The GOP leader opposes the expulsion resolution introduced by Democrats Tuesday but his push for an ethics probe departs from his earlier arguments that the House should wait to take any action until after a verdict is rendered on a federal indictment against Santos.
McCarthy said he plans to speak with House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries about the ethics review, which could allow House Republicans to avoid taking a formal position on whether Santos should remain in Congress, at least for the time being.
Representative Robert Garcia, a California Democrat, forced the matter to a head earlier in the day by introducing the resolution to expel Santos, which under House rules will require action within two days.
A majority of the House can refer the matter to a committee at that time rather than vote on the matter, which aligns with McCarthy’s comments.
“I would like the Ethics Committee to move rapidly on this,” McCarthy added.
A federal grand jury indicted Santos last week on fraud and money-laundering charges stemming from what prosecutors said was an effort to deceive donors supporting his campaign.
Expulsion of a member requires a two-thirds majority of the chamber, so the effort would need at least 77 Republican votes. As of Monday the expulsion resolution had 48 co-sponsors, all Democrats.
Recent expulsion resolutions have come only after a member has been convicted of a crime. But Garcia said there’s no need to wait.
Read more: Santos Joins the Select Club of the Indicted in Congress
“He’s already admitted to many of his lies, and now is an opportunity to hold him accountable, and the Republicans in the House are actually going to have to go on record,” he said outside the Capitol Tuesday.
Santos didn’t return a message seeking comment.
Most members of New York’s Republican delegation have called on Santos to resign.
Santos, who lied during his campaign about having worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, has been a reliable McCarthy ally in his short tenure in the House. Santos cast the final and deciding vote to pass a Republican bill addressing the debt ceiling in April, after four Republicans voted against it.
An expulsion would set up a special election in his Long Island district, which includes northeastern Queens and northern Nassau County. The parties would nominate candidates who would run in an election within three months of the vacancy.
Only five members have ever been successfully expelled from the House — three for supporting the confederacy in the Civil War, and two after being convicted of corruption.
The most recent was a 420-1 vote to expel Ohio Democrat Jim Traficant, who was convicted of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion in 2002. He tried to mount a comeback from prison, but lost to his former congressional aide, Tim Ryan.
–With assistance from Billy House and Erik Wasson.
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