A resolution by Democrats to expel Rep. George Santos from the U.S. House of Representatives forces the hand of a freshman Republican congressman from New Jersey who made ethics a cornerstone of his campaign last year.
Rep. Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) will need to decide if he wants to kick out Santos, who has pleaded not guilty to a 13-count federal indictment, or side with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who prefers to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee.
The ethics panel is notoriously slow-moving, frustrating Kean during his 2022 congressional campaign. There’s no guarantee that the bi-partisan committee will expedite the matter.
If Kean wants to eject Santos from Congress – his spokesman declined to comment today – he might need to vote with a group of House Democrats and oppose the referral as a way of forcing an expulsion vote.
Former Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes), who was defeated by Kean last year, said the issue goes beyond Santos, a freshman Republican from New York, and should focus on how the national GOP deals with former President Donald Trump.
“I’ve got an idiosyncratic view on Santos,” Malinowski said. “He obviously doesn’t belong in Congress, and everyone should be willing to say so, but his falsehoods are trivial compared to Trump’s, whose lies inspired a violent insurrection.”
Malinowski said he is “not impressed by Republicans who turn their backs on a clown like Santos while accepting Trump as the leader of their party.”
“I don’t see them confronting the culture that allows people like Santos to get party backing to run for Congress, a culture of no-questions-asked if you’re MAGA enough,” he told the New Jersey Globe.
Some Democrats have argued that an expulsion vote sets a dangerous precedent for the future.
Over the nation’s history, just five House members have been expelled: three for supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War, and two – Ozzie Myers in 1980 and James Traficant in 2002 – following their convictions in federal court.
The Justice Department charged Santos last week with money laundering, theft, wire fraud, and making false statements.