A previous version of this article incorrectly said that Rep. George Santos was arraigned in Manhattan. It happened in Central Islip, N.Y. The article has been corrected.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) rebuffed a move by Democrats to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), telling reporters the matter should be handled by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee.
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) introduced a measure Tuesday to expel Santos, who was recently indicted. Under House rules, the privileged motion would require a vote, a move to table or referral to committee within two days. The measure stands little chance in the chamber, where it would need a two-thirds majority to pass.
“I think these accusations are very serious,” but “you have to have process,” McCarthy said Tuesday in Washington. “I don’t want to wait around for the courts to act,” and the Ethics Committee could work “faster” than the courts, he said.
Santos was charged by federal prosecutors earlier this month with 13 financial crimes, including defrauding his donors, using their money for his personal benefit and wrongfully claiming unemployment benefits.
The freshman lawmaker faces seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of lying to the House of Representatives on financial forms in that case.
He pleaded not guilty May 10 to all the charges, denied criminal wrongdoing and called the legal inquiries a “witch hunt,” echoing the language used by former president Donald Trump, whom Santos has supported.
A day after his arraignment in Central Islip, N.Y., Santos signed a deal with prosecutors in Brazil, admitting to theft and agreeing to pay restitution and fines in exchange for prosecutors dropping the criminal case against him.
In March, the House Ethics Committee voted to create a bipartisan subcommittee to investigate claims about the New York congressman, including his past business practices, campaign finance expenditures and an allegation of sexual misconduct.
The subcommittee will try to determine whether Santos, 34, may have “engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office,” the committee said in a statement.
McCarthy previously told reporters he would not support Santos for reelection next year. And several of Santos’s Republican colleagues called for his resignation in the wake of the indictment.
“Resign,” Rep. Michael Lawler (R-N.Y.) said in a text message to The Washington Post.
“I once again call on this serial fraudster to resign from office,” Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.) said in a statement.
“These charges bring us one step closer to never having to talk about this lying loser ever again,” Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) said.
Rep. Nicholas A. Langworthy (R-N.Y.) said in a statement: “George Santos is an embarrassment to himself and the House of Representatives. He is a con man whose time is up and I reiterate my original call in January for him to resign.”
Other members of Congress have continued to serve while facing criminal charges, a fact McCarthy noted again Tuesday.
In recent years, those include now-former representatives Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), indicted in 2018 for spending campaign funds on personal expenses, including trips to Hawaii and Italy; Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), charged in 2018 with securities fraud; and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), indicted in 2021 on accusations of concealing information about foreign campaign contributions. Hunter and Collins later pleaded guilty. Fortenberry was found guilty in March 2022 of concealing facts and lying to investigators probing illegal campaign contributions.
Amy B Wang and John Wagner contributed to this report.