US--Congress-Santos-Fallout 12/02 06:55
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House is making history this year in ways that
Republicans could hardly have envisioned when the party took control.
First, the Republicans voted to oust their speaker, Kevin McCarthy, and on
Friday they voted to get rid of one of their own, indicted GOP Rep. George
Santos of New York.
Never before had a House majority voted to evict its speaker, and not since
the Civil War had the chamber voted to expel a member who was charged but not
yet convicted of a crime.
The result has been a dizzying 11 months in a House majority riven by
infighting, chiseling away at the powers of Congress and taking its toll on the
actual business of governing.
As the year comes to a close, the arc of power for House Republicans is at
an inflection point, a new era of performance politics and chaotic governing
that shows no signs of easing.
"Is it messy? Yeah, sure," said Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, among the New
Yorkers who led the ouster of Santos. "But when you're actually governing in a
democratic republic, it can be messy."
In many ways, Santos is a product and practitioner of a new way of
governing, a system that rewards big personalities who rise to prominence with
charismatic if often extreme public personas rather than the quieter work that
governs the nation.
Instead of shying from the exposure, Santos, who is accused of fabricating
much of his life story, embraced his moment in history, another segment of his
celebrity run in Congress.
Ahead of voting, Santos convened a lively press conference on the Capitol
steps, breezily answering questions about his future (he did not plan to seek
reelection) and whether his shoes were purchased illegally with campaign funds
(he said they were several years old).
He defended himself against the "bullying" and decried the "smear" against
"This is my battle," Santos said before a crush of cameras, acknowledging he
would have done "a lot" of things differently.
Santos doubled down on his own personal narrative, not as the fraudster he
is charged with being, but as the representative of the New Yorkers who sent
him to Congress and who, he argued, are the ones who should decide whether or
not to remove him.
"I came in here as a mad-as-hell activist who was just disenfranchised," he
said. "I leave here, no regrets."
His quick ascent in politics as an outsider modeled partly after Donald
Trump is reflective of this postmodern political era, and the power of a single
lawmaker to become famous for being famous.
Santos joined a diverse class of younger freshmen lawmakers who were
changing the face of the GOP. His celebrity status only rose after the
outrageous embellishments he made about his background, his experience, even
his family heritage came to light.
Essentially, the bulk of the Santos life story appears to have been made up.
A scathing House Ethics report found "overwhelming evidence" of lawbreaking by
Santos, including questionable campaign expenditures on items like Botox. He
has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he duped donors.
His swift downfall shows the GOP's willingness to turn on its own,
particularly when it is politically expedient, even at the risk of losing
another dependable vote from their slim majority that now teeters amid
But Republicans split over ousting Santos just as they did earlier in
October over McCarthy's removal as speaker.
"One was a mistake and one was righteous and necessary," said Rep. Nick
LaLota, R-N.Y., about the two votes. "What we did today was righteous and
necessary if we are going to claim the mantle of being the party of
But Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who orchestrated McCarthy's
ouster as speaker, led a wing of Republicans defending Santos' right to his day
The roll call became a test for the new Speaker Mike Johnson, who told
lawmakers they should vote their conscience, as leaders do to signal there is
no preferred party position.
There was a moment during the two days of debate when it seemed as if Santos
might be able to hang on. But in the end, even the supportive votes from
leadership were not enough, and more than the two-thirds required tally in the
House voted to expel him.
Time is slipping for other year-end business in Congress, including passage
of the annual spending bills needed to prevent a government shutdown. The risk
of shutdowns has hovered all year and the next deadline for funding is Jan. 19.
Johnson told lawmakers they would next soon turn to a vote to formally
authorize the impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden over the business
dealings of his son, Hunter.
A vote could come as soon as next week, but it's uncertain that the House,
now down a Republican member, will have enough votes for that next priority,
historic impeachment proceedings.