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Third time the charm: Will George Santos survive the latest move to oust him from the House?

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., has survived two other efforts to oust him from Congress in recent weeks.

But the third time may be the charm for lawmakers who believe Santos is unfit to serve.

The House likely votes in the coming days on a measure to expel Santos for his myriad of alleged misdeeds, campaign finance abuses and generally, contriving an entire, faux life story and lying his way into a seat in the House of Representatives.

The House sidetracked two previous efforts to expel Santos – never directly casting a ballot on his worthiness to be a House member. Those who opposed the plan to expel Santos weren’t defending him. They just noted that a court has never convicted Santos of alleged wrongdoing. Prior to Thanksgiving, the House Ethics Committee hadn’t completed its investigation into the conduct of Santos.

SANTOS ACCUSES COLLEAGUES OF VOTING HUNGOVER, SLEEPING AROUND IN PROFANITY-LADEN TIRADE AGAINST ETHICS REPORT

Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution grants each body of Congress authority to have the ultimate authority of who gets sworn-in, determine its own rules of proceedings, mete out discipline and “with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.” 

Expulsions are extremely rare in the House. The two-thirds threshold is steep. The worst thing to happen to those pushing to give Santos the boot would be to have a failed expulsion vote. A majority certainly may have wanted to expel Santos. But the House needs two-thirds to do so. That’s 290 yeas needed to expel if all current 434 members cast ballots.

Just hours into the job, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., expressed concern about providing Santos “due process.” Lawmakers were mindful of the precedent set to expel other lawmakers.

In 1861, the House voted to expel late Reps. John Bullock Clark, D-Mo., John William Reid, D-Mo., and Henry Cornelius Bennett, D-Ky., for siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The House voted to expel former Rep. Ozzie Myers, D-Penn., after he was convicted of taking bribes as part of an FBI sting in 1980.

Lawmakers expelled late Rep. Jim Traficant, D-Ohio, in 2002. A court found Traficant guilty of conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges.

So, the House has expelled a grand total of five lawmakers in history. And Santos didn’t associate with the Confederacy (as far as we know). Santos faces a litany of criminal charges. But his trial doesn’t start until February.

Therefore, is the bar high enough for expulsion?

MIKE JOHNSON ON THE CLOCK

We’ll know in a few days.

The House Ethics Committee published an incriminating report at the conclusion of its inquiry into Santos just before Thanksgiving. Within hours, House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., announced he would introduce a resolution to expel Santos. 

The lack of an Ethics Committee report gave lawmakers pause – as well as a fig leaf to hide behind – to hold off on expelling Santos. That may not be the case now.

And as always, it’s about the math. The House leadership brass may want to make sure it has the votes to expel Santos before calling this vote. As bad as a failed expulsion vote would have been before, the damage would be exponentially worse if the body stumbled to toss Santos after the Ethics Committee report. 

Note that previous resolutions to expel Santos – and even censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. – were what the House terms as “privileged” resolutions. Lawmakers craft a privileged resolution such as one for expulsion in a way that it advances to the front of the legislative line. The House must consider a privileged resolution immediately or within two legislative days. But heretofore, Guest introduced his measure in a way that is NOT privileged. It isn’t automatically in the queue to come up when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill. Moreover, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., did not post anything about expulsion for Santos on the official House docket late last week.

This may be a safety valve for leaders on both sides to make sure they have the votes to actually expel Santos, if and when Guest’s plan comes to the floor. This could also give Santos a chance to resign ahead of time.

If lawmakers dither with pulling the trigger on Santos, one wonders if Santos might even draft his own expulsion resolution, make it privileged, and dare the House to expel him.

Former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would occasionally summon lawmakers to his office and beseech them to resign when their conduct ran afoul of acceptable standards. In fact, Boehner and other House Speakers often didn’t have to plead with offending members. Expectations were implied. Lawmakers who strayed from the straight and narrow knew what they had to do.

THE DIVIDE: HOW A PROTEST OVER ISRAEL EXPOSED A SERIOUS RIFT IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Late last week, Santos took to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, to rant about his potential expulsion. 

“I know I’m going to get expelled when this expulsion resolution goes to the floor,” declared Santos, characterizing himself as the “Mary Magdalene of the United States Congress.”

Santos claims that the House is populated “by felons galore” and lawmakers “with all sorts of sheisty backgrounds.”

Santos also said that his time in Congress should be “done when I say it’s done. When I want it to be done. Not when they want it to be done.”

Santos contends he won’t resign from Congress. However, the New York Republican did reverse himself, announcing he would not stand for re-election. Santos also announced a press conference on the steps of the Capitol at 8 am et on Thursday.

Santos can’t just summon the press to the Capitol steps if he’s no longer a member by that point. But the House schedule is far from clear at this writing. 

A removal of Santos will drop the GOP majority to 220 Republicans compared to 213 Democrats. That means Republicans can only lose three votes on their side and still pass a measure without Democratic support. However, Rep.-elect Celeste Maloy, R-Utah, is set to succeed former Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, this week. Maloy just won a special election earlier this month.

But the numbers game in the House isn’t done. Reps. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., and Bill Johnson, R-Ohio are scheduled to resign early this year to accept other jobs. 

This means the state of the GOP majority remains fluid over the next few months – if fragile.

But maybe not as tenuous at the grasp on the Long Island House seat by George Santos.

His future is likely decided in a matter of days.

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