By Moira Warburton and David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Embattled U.S. Representative George Santos faced a fresh effort to expel him from Congress on Friday, the day after fellow lawmakers released a report that suggested federal prosecutors should bring additional criminal charges against him.
House of Representatives Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest introduced the bill targeting the first-term fellow Republican, who has been engulfed in scandal since his 2022 election, following revelations that he lied about much of his past and federal fraud charges.
Santos, 35, previously pleaded not guilty to federal charges of laundering campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and charging the credit cards of donors without permission, among other campaign finance violations.
“The evidence uncovered … is more than sufficient to warrant punishment and the most appropriate punishment is expulsion,” Guest said in a statement.
The House, which Republicans control by a narrow 221-213 majority, is expected to vote on the expulsion effort when it returns from a two-week recess.
Santos’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Despite the narrow margin in the House, Santos is not likely to get support from Republican Speaker Mike Johnson, who described the report’s findings as “very troubling,” according to a statement from his spokesperson, Raj Shah.
“Speaker Johnson encourages all involved to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is addressed further,” Shah said.
Santos’ district, which includes a small slice of New York City and some of its eastern suburbs, is seen as competitive.
The bipartisan Ethics Committee on Thursday released a report into Santos’ alleged campaign finance fraud, which documented a pattern of poor bookkeeping and misuse of campaign funds so pervasive that his election “has called into question the integrity of the House.”
Santos said on Thursday he would not run for reelection in 2024, but refused to step down before then.
The Ethics Committee said it referred more “uncharged and unlawful conduct” to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution, including fresh evidence of falsely reported loans received by Santos’ unsuccessful 2020 congressional campaign, improper loan repayments and “systemic reporting errors” in both his 2020 and 2022 campaigns.
The report also detailed extravagant – and possibly illegal – spending of campaign money, including thousands of dollars on Botox, luxury brands such as Hermes, and “smaller purchases” from OnlyFans, an online platform known for sexual content.
The House could vote on the motion – the second one this month that Santos has faced – as soon as Nov. 28, when it returns from a recess after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Such a motion requires two-thirds support in the House. Last time, 182 Republicans voted against expulsion as they need Santos’ seat to protect their narrow House majority. That 221-213 margin empowers them to block much of Democratic President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
But it is unclear whether Santos will receive the same support a second time. Multiple Republicans who voted against expulsion have come out to say they would not do the same again.
Santos is “unfit to serve and should be removed from office,” Republican Representative Stephanie Bice said in a social media post on Thursday. “George has betrayed the trust of his constituents who deserve honesty and transparency from their elected official.”
(Reporting by Moira Warburton; editing by Andy Sullivan, Scott Malone, Daniel Walls and Jonathan Oatis)