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New York Republican George Santos expelled from Congress

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., could become the first member expelled from Congress in more than 20 years.
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Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., could become the first member expelled from Congress in more than 20 years.

Updated December 1, 2023 at 11:32 AM ET

Members of the House of Representatives voted 311-114 Friday morning to expel New York Republican George Santos from Congress. Santos is the sixth House member ever to be expelled from Congress.

Santos is accused by prosecutors of a number of financial misdeeds, including reimbursing himself for loans to his congressional campaign that he appears to have never actually made — in essence, stealing money from campaign donors.

Almost all Democrats and more than 100 Republicans voted to expel Santos, who will now be replaced in a special election.

The date for that vote has not yet been set.

Santos represented a district that President Biden won by 10 percentage points, and the decision to expel him shrinks Republicans' already razor-thin majority in the House.

Santos left the Capitol building quickly after the vote, making few remarks to reporters.

At a news conference the day before, Santos said that Congress was taking the job of the American people, who he says should have been allowed to decide his fate at the ballot box. He also suggested that this would not be the last time folks heard from him.

"I'm 35," Santos said. "This doesn't mean it is goodbye forever."

Why was Santos removed from Congress?

The freshman lawmaker was mired in controversy since before he was sworn in to Congress.

The North Shore Leader, a newspaper in Santos' Long Island district, originally raised questions about claims that Santos' made in campaign filings in which he estimated his net worth at roughly $11 million. More extensive allegations were published last December in The New York Times.

Among other lies, the 35-year-old Santos falsely claimed that he had been a volleyball star at Baruch College, that he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and that he was Jewish — stories he later amended or recanted in a December 2022 interview.

"I'm embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my résumé," Santos told the New York Post. "I own up to that."

Then, in May, Santos was indicted on 13 criminal charges including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.

In October, prosecutors added an additional 10 charges in a superseding indictment, following a plea deal by a former campaign finance official affiliated with Santos' campaign.

Led by Republican Rep. Michael Guest of Mississippi, lawmakers on the House Ethics Committee put together a report that corroborated many of the allegations contained in the indictments.

After the report was released, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, Guest put forward the resolution to expel Santos from the House of Representatives.

How often are lawmakers expelled from Congress?

It is rare.

Three men were expelled for supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War.

More recently, Democrats Michael Myers and James Traficant were expelled after being convicted of bribery — in 1980 and 2002, respectively.

Before the vote, Santos said he would wear the distinction "as a badge of honor."

Santos' fate remained unclear until voting began

The House Republican leadership had announced that it would not try to marshal its members to vote for or against Santos' expulsion.

The morning of the vote, though, the Republican leadership announced that it would be voting against the measure. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., a constitutional lawyer, said he was concerned about the precedent of expelling a member who had not yet been convicted of a crime.

Just before the vote was about to begin, Rep. Max Miller of Ohio, one of Santos' Republican colleagues, sent an email to the full Republican conference, writing that he and his mother were victims of credit card fraud tied to Santos' campaign and that he would be voting to remove Santos.

"Neither my Mother nor I approved these charges or were aware of them," Miller wrote in the email obtained by NPR. "We have spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees in the resulting follow up."

Ultimately, the pressure was enough to reach the two-thirds support necessary to remove Santos from office.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.