An effort to expel indicted GOP Rep. George Santos failed in the House on Wednesday as a Republican-led resolution fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
The final vote was 179 to 213. Ahead of the vote, Santos defended his right to “the presumption of innocence.”
“I have a right of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. I’m fighting for that right and if these guys don’t believe in that, then democracy is dead,” Santos told CNN’s Manu Raju.
Earlier, five vulnerable New York Republican House members asked the conference to vote to expel Santos from the chamber.
“As Republican Members from the New York delegation, we fully support Santos’ expulsion, and ask all of our colleagues to join us in voting yes,” the lawmakers wrote in a new letter to their colleagues dated Wednesday.
Freshman Reps. Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito, Marcus Molinaro, Brandon Williams and Mike Lawler signed the letter. The vulnerable members from New York’s congressional delegation address several specific concerns raised by their colleagues including the arguments to let Santos’ voters decide and that by removing him they are only decreasing their impossibly slim majority.
All five Republicans stuck with the GOP in July to refer a similar Democratic effort to the Ethics committees.
“This issue is not a political one but a moral one. … This is a question of right and wrong,” they wrote, rebutting the argument from colleagues that this would further risk their slim majority. House Republican currently control 221 seats to Democrats 212. There are two vacancies: one in a safely Republican district in Utah and one in a safely Democratic district in Rhode Island.
They also argue that expelling Santos prior to a criminal conviction would set a “positive” precedent.
“Indeed, we should let the American people know if a candidate for Congress lies about everything about himself to get their votes, and then that false identity becomes known by his admission or otherwise, that House Members will expel the fraudster and give voters a timely opportunity to have proper representation.”
Tuesday evening the House Ethics Committee announced they will provide an update to their investigation on or by November 17th, which NY GOP members fear could result in their colleagues waiting to see how that investigation plays out.
LaLota said the failed vote to expel Santos was a “step in the right direction.”
“I expect in three weeks, many more Republicans and those Democrats to flip their votes to vote yes to expel when they can hang their hat on something,” the New York Republican told CNN’s Phil Mattingly, citing the impending release of House Ethics Committee findings on Santos.
“For me, I don’t need that. I already know all the facts,” he said. “I’m in Long Island at the epicenter of the George Santos disaster.”
Santos is facing 23 charges including wire fraud and identity theft. He has pleaded not guilty.
Santos wrote on X on Monday, “I will not beg for my constitutional rights. I will let my colleagues make their decision without my interference.”
Last week, he wrote on X that he is not resigning and said, “I’m entitled to due process and not a predetermined outcome as some are seeking.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.
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