Republicans in the House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected an attempt by Democrats to force a vote on the expulsion of New York Representative George Santos, who was charged last week on a 13-count federal indictment of fraud, illegal money transfers , stealing government funds and lying about financial disclosures. .
Republicans voted along party lines, 221 to 204, to submit the resolution to expel Mr. Santos to the House Ethics Committee, which has been investigating Mr. Santos’ finances and campaign activities for months.
The measure to expel Mr. Santos, introduced by Representative Robert Garcia, a California Democrat, was unlikely to pass in the House, where a two-thirds majority would have been needed to pass. The Republicans have such a thin majority that Santos’ vote remains crucial, lessening the political incentive for them to support his impeachment.
By postponing the vote, House Republicans — including some who have called for Santos to resign — avoided having to take a firm stand on his behavior. But their actions could also be seen as tacit approval of Mr. Santos’s stay in Congress as he faces ethical and legal scrutiny.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy has delayed action for months, defending Mr. Santos’ right to his seat, arguing that the House should not punish Mr. Santos without a formal report from the ethics committee. But a handful of Republicans, many of them first-term representatives from New York, have spent months saying Santos was unfit to serve and demanding he resign.
A vote to evict Mr. Santos threatened to put those New York representatives, most of whom flipped the swing districts that will be the Democrats’ main target next year, in a politically embarrassing position. Voting for Mr. Santos’ expulsion would put them at odds with their party. But voting against might make them appear hypocritical after months of vigorously denouncing Mr. Santos.
All those Republicans voted to take the issue of Mr. Santos’s expulsion to the House Ethics Committee. In a statement, Rep. Mike Lawler, who defeated Sean Patrick Maloney in New York’s Hudson Valley, again called for Santos to resign, but accused Democrats of political grandeur and violating past precedent.
“Never before has a member of Congress, of any party, been removed without a criminal conviction or referral” from House Ethics, said Mr. Lawler.
The timeline for the House Ethics Committee’s investigation remains unclear. The commission only opened its investigation into Mr. Santos in March, nearly two months after two Democratic lawmakers called for it. It is often criticized by government watchdog groups for being too slow.
The criminal case against Mr. Santos could further delay the work of the committee. In previous cases where federal prosecutors have brought criminal charges against a representative, the Ethics Committee has postponed its investigation at the request of the Justice Department.
A spokesperson for the Ethics Committee would not say whether she received such a request in relation to her work for Mr. Santos.
Still, Mr McCarthy said on Tuesday he wanted the committee to act quickly. “I think they can come back faster than a lawsuit could,” he said.
Mr. Santos, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, is expected to appear in federal court on Long Island on June 30. .