The rocky path for NY Rep. George Santos: Here's what his future in Congress could look like

  • In Politics
  • 2023-02-03 10:00:09Z

WASHINGTON - No longer on any committees and facing daily calls to resign, New York Rep. George Santos faces an uncertain future in Congress as he tries to move past damaging revelations that he embellished his resume, personal background and his finances. 

The Republican representative stepped away from his committee seats Wednesday calling it a temporary move until investigations into his background are conducted and he is "cleared."

Despite calls from his colleagues to resign from Congress entirely, Santos remains adamant that he will serve his full two-year term.

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George Santos controversy: Here's a look at investigations of the House Republican

Here's how things could play out for Santos in Congress:

What happens if Santos is expelled?


Republican leaders could choose to hold a vote that would expel Santos from the House. However, there's no indication Republicans plan to do this.

The expulsion would require a full vote on the House floor with a two-thirds majority in favor.

Gregory Wawro, a political science professor at Columbia University, said getting a supermajority to support an expulsion is extremely unlikely.

More: George Santos' college education is a myth. Is he the only one lying? We checked

The vote likely would get the backing of all Democrats, he said, but it would be challenging to get enough Republicans on board in a chamber where the GOP margin is only a handful of lawmakers.

Five members of the House have been expelled in U.S. history - three for supporting the Confederacy, one for bribery and the most recent, former Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, for filing false tax returns, among other charges.

What happens if Santos resigns?


Santos could willingly resign from his seat, but he doesn't like someone who will leave quietly.

"I will NOT resign!" Santos tweeted on Jan. 11.

Resignations happen far more frequently in the House than expulsions. Dozens of representatives have resigned before the end of their terms for a variety of reasons including medical issues, the decision to run for a different seat or personal reasons.

A resignation, as well as an expulsion, would lead to a special election in Santos' district to fill the seat.

Who will fill the empty seat?


If Santos resigns or is expelled, the governor of New York is required to call a special election. Party committees would select nominees and state party leadership would choose the nominee for each party.

"This is a scenario that Republicans are not especially eager to have to defend the seat," said Jonathan Hanson, a lecturer at Michigan University's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

President Joe Biden carried Santos' district in 2020. The 3rd congressional district, which encompasses part of Long Island outside of Manhattan, was redrawn in May to lean slightly less Democratic. Biden carried the district in 2020, but Republicans flipped it red in the 2022 midterms.

What is the outlook for Santos?


Santos has not indicated plans beyond serving out his current term but experts believe it is unlikely Santos will run for reelection if he continues to serve out his term. If he does run in 2024, those same experts doubt he'd be re-elected, experts say.

A recent Newsday/Siena College poll found 78% of voters in his district say he should resign.

"It's hard to imagine him surviving any further revelation," Hanson said. "I think that's just clearly not tenable for him to try to stay in office at that point."

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If Santos violated campaign finance law, he could be indicted, Hanson said.

Under House rules, sitting members of the House who are indicted or convicted can still keep their seat. However, convicted members are instructed by House rules to not vote on the floor or in committees as well as risk losing chairmanships or ranking member status on committees.  

What would a Santos exit mean for McCarthy?

WASHINGTON, DC - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
WASHINGTON, DC - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.  

Santos' departure would make the four-seat Republican majority in the House even narrower - limiting McCarthy's ability to drive legislation through the chamber.

"I think Republicans feel like they can't afford to lose any more seats," Hanson said. "They already have a very tenuous situation where they can't afford barely any defections on a vote if they want something to pass."

Wawro said it's a "gamble" for Republicans as to whether they back Santos in the short term despite daily revelations about his fabricated background or risk losing the seat in a special election.

"I think it's fair to say it's a pretty big embarrassment for the party," he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: George Santos: Here's what his future in Congress could look like


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