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In helping expel George Santos, House Republicans draw a line at his abuse of the political system

US House expels George Santos in Friday vote
Representative Santos became the sixth House member in history to be expelled after a 311-114 vote. (C-SPAN)

WASHINGTON — House Republicans finally reached their limit on New York Representative George Santos.

After a year of bizarre and disturbing revelations about his falsified background and a slew of criminal charges of laundering campaign money, the final straw that led to his expulsion from the House on Friday came from a Nov. 16 ethics report that found he had abused the political system itself, and in eyebrow-raising fashion.

“He stole from donors to spend at Ferragamo and Hermes and [on] Botox and OnlyFans porn website,” said Representative Nicole Malliotakis of New York, one of dozens of Republicans who changed their position from a month ago and voted to expel Santos on Friday. “You don’t do that. You don’t steal from donors and then spend it on personal luxury boutique shops.”

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Santos, 35, became just the sixth House member in history to be expelled, and the first who wasn’t already convicted of crimes or who had demonstrated “disloyalty to the Union” during the Civil War. The vote was 311-114, with two lawmakers voting “present.” Almost half his fellow Republicans — 105 — joined with all but two Democrats to provide the two-thirds majority needed for expulsion, even though the move narrows the already thin GOP majority.

Santos, who has admitted embellishing his resume but denied doing anything criminal, had survived two previous expulsion efforts, with many lawmakers hesitant to set a precedent of expulsion before a criminal conviction.

But the scathing 56-page report from the bipartisan House Ethics Committee, and Santos’ failure to “meaningfully cooperate,” allayed many lawmakers’ concerns about due process. And the report’s detailed findings along with the conclusion that Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit” was too much for many Republicans to continue to tolerate.

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Despite that, Ohio Republican David Joyce said momentum within the party was swinging away from expulsion as late as Friday morning, especially as GOP leaders announced they’d vote against it. Then lawmakers received an email that drove home Santos’ abuse of the political system: Representative Max Miller, a fellow Ohio Republican, told colleagues that earlier this year he learned the Santos campaign had charged his credit card, and his mother’s, for contributions over the federal limits without their consent.

“Neither my mother nor I approved these charges or were aware of them. We have spent tens of thousands in legal fees in the resulting follow up,” Miller wrote. “I have seen a list of roughly 400 other people to whom the Santos campaign allegedly did this.”

One allegation in a 23-count federal indictment against Santos in October involved repeated unauthorized charges to contributors’ credit cards. Joyce, who serves on the ethics committee, told CNN that the revelations in the last-minute email “determined the outcome” for Santos.

“When you start ripping off other members, if that’s not enough to convince people that maybe you shouldn’t be here, then I don’t know what it’s going to take,” Joyce said.

Still, Republicans were almost evenly split on the expulsion vote, with House Speaker Mike Johnson and his leadership team all voting against it. Florida Representative Byron Donalds was among several GOP members who warned the House had set a dangerous precedent by acting before Santos had his day in court.

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“So are we now going to tell every American that if you’re accused of something you get fired on the spot?” Donalds said. “If that’s going to be the standard of America going forward, I shudder for the future of our country.”

Santos has been an outcast since arriving in Washington for his first term this year amid a swirl of news reports after his election last November that he fabricated much of the life story he told to voters. The falsehoods ranged from his family’s history (he falsely said he was Jewish, his grandparents fled the Holocaust, and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks “claimed” his mother’s life) to his own resume (he never attended the colleges he said he graduated from nor worked for two major financials firms he listed as employers).

Reporters digging into his background also uncovered a series of bizarre episodes, including criminal charges against him in Brazil for allegedly forging two stolen checks and falsely saying he raised money for the sick dog of a homeless veteran.

Santos pleaded guilty to the Brazilian charges last spring to settle the case and has admitted to “embellishing” his resume. But he’s repeatedly denied doing anything criminal and has pleaded not guilty to 23 felony charges in federal court.

As lawmakers voted Friday, Santos strolled the House floor with a dark overcoat draped over his shoulders and shook hands with supportive colleagues. He left the chamber a few minutes before the vote ended as his fate became clear. “To hell with this place,” he told reporters as he headed to a waiting car and departed the Capitol for the last time as a member of Congress.

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In a news conference Thursday, Santos said he was denied due process and warned his congressional colleagues would regret their move.

“If the House wants to start different precedents and expel me, that is going to be the undoing of a lot of members of this body,” Santos said. “This will haunt them in the future where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from office when duly elected.”

But Representative Anthony D’Esposito, one of several New York Republicans who pushed for expulsion, said voters hadn’t voted for “the real George Santos.”

“They voted for someone who was made up, who was fabricated; quite frankly, it could have been a Disney character,” D’Esposito said. “I pray for him and I hope that he realizes what a mess that he has created.”

Republicans on either side of the expulsion vote said their decision was not about politics — neither an attempt to jettison a political liability nor keep him around because he was a reliable conservative vote. With his seat vacant, House Republicans now can only afford to lose three members on party-line votes.

And they risk losing the seat to a Democrat. New York Governor Kathy Hochul has 10 days to schedule a special election in a district that is viewed as a toss-up. The election is expected to be held early next year.

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“It’s not about whether it . . . takes away a vote of the majority, but more importantly, about what does due process look like in this,” Oklahoma Republican Kevin Hern said on Wednesday as he was trying to make up his mind. “If somebody’s been given the opportunity to come speak to the Ethics Committee, then has not done it, does that say he’s guilty among his peers?”

Hern, who voted against expulsion on Nov. 1, again opposed it Friday. But Representative Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who supported expulsion both times, said he believed Santos’ decision not to participate in the committee investigation was the turning point for many colleagues. The Democratic vote total for expulsion increased Friday to 206 from 155 a month ago.

“The substantive change in the tone of the House came when he refused to answer the Ethics Committee findings,” Neal said.

Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat, switched from opposing expulsion last month to supporting it on Friday. But it wasn’t without serious concerns about the precedent that was set in what he acknowledged was “always going to be a hard question.”

“I am scared to death that in this culture there’s going to be this desire to kick out somebody on the other side,” Cleaver said as he wrestled with his choice Wednesday. “I think we’re opening Pandora’s Box, and there’s a lot of evil stuff in that box — and a lot of it’s already been let loose.”


Jim Puzzanghera can be reached at jim.puzzanghera@globe.com. Follow him @JimPuzzanghera. Tal Kopan can be reached at tal.kopan@globe.com. Follow her @talkopan.