Speaker Mike Johnson’s first 10 days in office could include a vote to expel a member and dueling censure resolutions, throwing the House into a different kind of chaos after three weeks without a speaker.
A group of Republican members from the New York delegation introduced a privileged resolution to expel indicted Rep. George Santos, with Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., telling reporters that his ex-treasurer Nancy Mark’s confession to related crimes was the “main catalyst.”
The resolution comes one day before Santos is expected to appear in court to face new charges from a superseding indictment, which include allegations he stole from donors by using their credit card information Santos responded to the expulsion resolution and rumors he was packing up his office ahead of his resignation with a post on X. “I have not cleared out my office. 2. I’m not resigning. 3. I’m entitled to due process and not a predetermined outcome as some are seeking.”
Semafor was also given access to the lawmaker’s office to confirm it remained unpacked.
Johnson has two legislative days to schedule a vote, which requires two-thirds of the House to pass. The New Yorkers said they won’t be whipping votes and that members should vote their conscience and districts.
It’s not clear they have the votes to expel Santos. Members expressed unease with removing one of their own — something that has been done only a handful of times, mostly during the Civil War — without letting the legal process play out fully.
“I think the voters and the ethics committee and any investigations into Santos can take care of themselves,” Rep. John Duarte, R-Calif. said. “I will not be voting to expel George Santos.”
There was also the reality that a Santos expulsion would leave the already razor-thin majority even thinner as the House GOP struggles to get itself in order.
“He ran on a Republican record, and they shouldn’t kick him out,” Glenn Grothman, R-Wisc. told Semafor.
The expulsion vote will be brought up alongside two rival censure votes that have nothing to do with Santos.
One was introduced by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, R-Mich. for “antisemitic activity, sympathizing with terrorist organizations and leading an insurrection at the United States Capitol Complex,” the last part a reference to a civil disobedience protest at a House office building by a Jewish pro-Palestinian group in which 300 protestors were arrested. Tlaib, who has faced criticism for a social media post blaming Israel for an explosion at a Gaza hospital the U.S. has since attributed to a Palestinian rocket, said the resolution was “deeply Islamophobic and attacks peaceful Jewish anti-war advocates.”
In response, Rep. Becca Balint, D-Vt., offered a censure resolution that alleges Greene, among many other charges, “repeatedly fanned the flames of racism, antisemitism, LGBTQ hate speech, Islamophobia, anti-Asian hate, xenophobia, and other forms of hatred.” The resolution includes a reference to a social media post by Greene from 2018 describing a plot by the Rothschild family, a frequent target of antisemitic conspiracies, to use a nonexistent space laser to cause wildfires in California. Greene has since said the post was not intended as antisemitic.
We’re calling next week’s movie “Two Censures and an Expulsion” for those of you who are new here. They’re all privileged resolutions, meaning Johnson can’t keep them from reaching the floor, and they all present early headaches as he tries to get his caucus in line to avert a government shutdown before November 17 and pass 12 appropriations bills.
Take Santos, for example, whose presence often created problems for then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy. An expulsion might remove one distraction and help New York Republicans demonstrate their independence ahead of some tough elections. But if it succeeds, Republicans could be down a vote for months, and potentially lose the seat to a Democrat. And if it fails, but Johnson is perceived as supportive of the measure, it could leave the unpredictable Santos with a grudge that could matter in future votes. The Congressman just this month helped nudge Rep. Steve Scalise’s speaker bid off track after declaring he was a hard “no” due to Scalise’s refusal to acknowledge him.
But it is what it is, and the newly-elected speaker was sworn in to wrangle the 435-member body, including the problem children that consistently consume the attention of the congressional press corps.
Johnson’s office did not respond to a request from Semafor, but LaLota told reporters that the new speaker told them to “do what’s right and do what’s right for New York.”
Room for Disagreement
There’s an argument to be made that getting back to business includes all the business of the House, even a free-for-all like this.
“Some people have some very strong feelings about those things,” Rep. Jake Ellzey, R-Texas, told Semafor, adding that as a member of the Appropriations Committee, he’s “worried about getting the appropriations bills passed.”