Speaker Kevin McCarthy won’t push GOP Rep. George Santos to resign

Santos was not someone we knew, but we trusted him, says Nassau County Republican Chair Joseph Cairo

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to members of the news media outside of a Steering Committee meeting at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., January 11, 2023. 

Leah Millis | Reuters

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday said he would not urge embattled Republican Rep. George Santos to resign from Congress, hours after local GOP officials tore into the New York legislator and pushed him to step down.

“Look, the voters decide,” McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters on Capitol Hill when asked whether he would welcome Santos’ resignation if it was offered, according to NBC News.

“That’s what his decision is to make,” McCarthy said, adding, “The voters elected him to serve. If there is a concern, he has to go through the Ethics [Committee], let him move through that.”

McCarthy also signaled that Santos, who admitted to fabricating critical pieces of his resume during his run for office and is now facing multiple investigations, is still eligible to serve on House committees. He said that the congressman would not serve on any of the most prestigious House panels.

Santos was not someone we knew, but we trusted him, says Nassau County Republican Chair Joseph Cairo

Santos declared Wednesday that he “will not” resign from Congress as a growing bipartisan group pushes him to leave an office he was sworn into only on Saturday. The GOP lawmaker has apologized for embellishing pieces of his resume but has said he did not commit any crimes.

Santos’ turned defiant on social media Wednesday, as he swung back at the New York Republicans who had called on him to resign and lashed out at former GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who had tweeted for him to “resign now.”

“Go on @CNN  and cry about it,” Santos’ official account tweeted in response to Kinzinger, who recently joined that network as a political commentator.

Congressman George Santos (R-NY), who is facing a scandal over his resume and claims he made on the campaign trail, sits alone inside the crowded House Chamber during votes for the new Speaker of the House on the first day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Top Republicans from Nassau County, where Santos’ congressional district is located, called on him to resign Wednesday after what one official called a campaign run on “deceit, lies and fabrication.” They were later joined by New York State Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy, who is now also a freshman House Republican, who said “it’s clear” that Santos “cannot be an effective representative.”

McCarthy needs Santos to preserve his paper-thin GOP majority in the House. Right now, McCarthy can afford to lose four members of his caucus per vote and still pass bills without Democratic support.

If Santos were to resign or get expelled from Congress, it would trigger a special election to fill his seat in New York’s 3rd District. An open race to succeed Santos would likely be competitive, raising the prospect that the GEO could lose a seat.

McCarthy’s slim margin was on public view last week. Hardline conservative holdouts demanded major concessions before dropping their opposition to electing him as speaker, which they did only after first blocking him in 14 separate votes.

McCarthy also appeared to bristle when asked Wednesday if he planned to discipline Santos.

“What are the charges against him? Is there a charge against him?” McCarthy asked. “You know, in America today, you’re innocent till proven guilty.”

“The voters are the power, the voters made the decision and he has the right to serve here. If there is something that rises to the occasion that he did something wrong then we’ll deal with that at that time,” McCarthy said.

The House speaker played down Santos’ fabrications on the campaign trail, telling reporters that “a lot of people in the Senate and others” embellished their resumes while running for office.

The Constitution provides McCarthy with several options to discipline Santos. One of them is a formal censure vote in the House.

In a censure scenario, Santos would have to stand and listen to the charges against him read out loud, but the final vote would only require a simple majority.

Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar was censured in 2021 for sharing a cartoon of him appearing to kill New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Far more severe than a censure would be a vote to expel Santos. This would require a two-thirds majority of members present.

House leaders have typically resisted this option, however, because it could represent the chamber effectively defying the will of voters.

Only five members of the House have ever been removed. The last one was former Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, who was expelled in 2002 after being convicted of racketeering and corruption.

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