In a first, GOP-led House ousted Santos without conviction; Dems Menendez and Rangel got free pass

Expelling a member of Congress requires a two-thirds vote in either chamber, according to House and Senate rules.

Published: December 1, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: December 2, 2023 8:47am

By ousting Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., without a criminal conviction, the GOP-led House took an action never been done before on Capitol Hill.

For example, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was indicted on bribery charges. There have been some calls among Democrats for his resignation but he has vowed to continue serving, is fighting the legal charges, and he is not facing expulsion.

According to the Department of Justice, more than $480,000 in cash — much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe — was discovered in his home. Local newspapers reported that Menendez reported federal income of $170,985 in 2018, including his Senate salary and rents from property he owns in Union City, N.J. 

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., said on ABC’s “The View” that "the more important picture is that we have a colleague in the Senate that actually did much more sinister kinds of things."

"Senator Menendez needs to go, and if you are going to expel Santos, how can you allow somebody like Menendez to remain in the Senate?” Fetterman asked.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the U.S. Senate of 51-49. 

Prior to Santos' removal, U.S. lawmakers were expelled either after being convicted of a crime or serving in the Confederacy during the Civil War, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Santos has acknowledged fabricating much of his resume during the 2022 midterm election. He was indicted in October of this year in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on federal charges, including wire and credit card fraud in connection with campaign contributions.

A House Ethics Committee investigation found that Santos misused campaign funds for personal expenses and "engaged in fraudulent conduct in connection with RedStone Strategies LLC."

Republicans now have a slim 221-213 majority in the House after the vacancy resulting from Santos' expulsion.

Expelling a member of Congress requires a two-thirds vote in either chamber, according to House and Senate rules. The final vote on Santos expulsion was 311 to 114. In total, 105 Republicans joined 206 Democrats to expel him. Only 2 Democrats voted to allow him to stay in the House. 

Naysa Woomer, former communications director for Santos, said she was "surprised" that expelling Santos passed on Friday.

"I am sure there are people that are very disappointed with the situation but having worked for him personally, I believe that integrity won today. This will obviously be a very even slimmer majority for a short term," she said on the Just the News Not Noise TV program. "But in the long term, I think this will actually be a greater benefit to House Republicans as we go into the 2024 election cycle."

Republicans who voted to allow Santos to remain in the House argued that ousting a lawmaker without a criminal conviction sets the wrong precedent. 

"I voted no on the resolution to expel Congressman George Santos because after the Civil War, only two members have been expelled - and both had been convicted, not just indicted," said Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md. "We shouldn’t set a dangerous new precedent for expulsion being based on indictment alone."

Woomer was asked about Menendez remaining in the Senate while the House voted to oust Santos.

"Senator Menendez does not deserve to be in the Senate either and I hope what happened today actually does serve as a great example for the Senate to put through the same type of process, that former Congressman George Santos had been through," she said.

"Chairman Guest and the Committee on House Ethics had put through a very thorough and transparent investigation into the former congressman, and the Senate should be doing the exact same thing. So I do hope that they hold Menendez equally as accountable as George Santos," she added.

Woomer also responded to Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge for triggering a fire alarm at the U.S. Capitol building, which resulted in an evacuation. He has not been censured or expelled. 

"This should once again serve as a really a prime example that if Republicans are stepping up to the plate and expelling one of their own, that House Democrats should be able to do the exact same thing," Woomer said.

"This was not something that House Republicans were looking to do. It was not an easy thing to do. And that's why I said that integrity won today, which will bode extremely well for House Republicans and once again, House Democrats should take a note from today's playbook."

In November 2010, when the Democrats controlled the House, a House Ethics Committee panel found then-Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., guilty of 11 charges of ethics violations. At the time, the House voted to censure Rangel but he was not expelled.

According to Reuters, the 11 counts included "failing to report rental income, improper use of a rent-stabilized apartment and soliciting charitable donations from people with business before Congress."

Rangel remained in Congress until 2017. In 2011, the Republicans gained the majority in the House but there was no vote to oust Rangel. 

In 2012, then-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., was facing an ethics investigation and resigned before any action was taken. Jackson, the son of civil-rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson, was accused of taking months of unauthorized medical leave without giving a prompt explanation as to why and having misused campaign dollars to decorate his Washington, D.C. home.

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