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'Clean Up Your House,' Dems Tell GOP Leadership After George Santos Saga

'Clean Up Your House,' Dems Tell GOP Leadership After George Santos Saga

George Santos, Kevin McCarthy and Mark Pocan

Now that the lying congressman from New York is seated, there's not much that can be done to get him to go if he refuses -- aside from an act of Congress.

As members of his home state's GOP demanded that gay Republican Rep. George Santos resign and then declared him persona non grata in their circles, Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy declined to join them and instead chose to stand by the embattled congressman. Meanwhile, Democrats who believe Santos's days are numbered, are calling on Republicans to act.

After McCarthy said on Wednesday that he was not going to ask Santos to resign and that he supported his placement on committees, it became clear that, for now, Santos might be here to stay.

Fellow lawmakers say that little can be done to remove Santos from Congress if he refuses to leave short of a vote of the entire body.

The Constitution states, "Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member." That means 290 members would have to vote to expel Santos in order to remove him from office.

Assuming all 212 House Democrats would vote unitedly to remove Santos, they would need at least 78 House Republicans to join in expelling him.

However, House Republican leadership does have options to sideline the embattled congressman, which would make him ineffective as a lawmaker.

Congressional Equality Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who is gay, tells The Advocate that the New York Republican is already an outcast in his caucus.

"I believe he currently is already sidelined in that if you looked at last week on the floor, he was probably America's loneliest person sitting there," says Pocan. "Nobody wanted to sit next to him."

The Equality Caucus called for Santos's resignation in late December when the initial fabrications came to light.

"Eventually, the friends he did find were friends that are friends of last resort. Like, as if you crashed on a mountain and you're going to eat them," Pocan says.

Santos was photographed sitting alone with other members' children during a nearly weeklong speakership fight leading to McCarthy's election. Toward the end of the ordeal, Santos was sitting at times with far-right Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Lauren Boebert.

The new speaker said that Santos must face the Ethics Committee, but he will get some committee assignments. As he left the Steering Committee meeting, McCarthy declared that he stood by Santos and would not ask him to resign.

"I try to stick by the Constitution. The voters elected him to serve. If there is a concern and he has to go through the Ethics, we'll let him move through that, but right now, the voters have a voice in the decision. So he will continue to serve," McCarthy said to reporters. "He's gonna have to build the trust here, and he's gonna have the opportunity to try to do that."

Then the new speaker added, "Is there a charge against him? In America today, you are innocent until proven guilty."

McCarthy also responded "no" to whether Santos would be seated on critical committees.

Local and federal authorities have said they are looking into potential financial wrongdoing by Santos. Brazil has also revived a fraud case against him.

Pocan says that McCarthy's comments are an empty gesture because first-year members of Congress rarely get put on those committees.

"I just saw McCarthy's now saying he won't put them on key committees or top committees, but you don't put a freshman on top committees anyway," the Wisconsin congressman says.

When news of Santos's lies surfaced, Pocan expressed concern about how classified material would be handled in the embattled congressman's presence. "One of the first things I tweeted when we found out his background is like this guy would never have gotten any kind of a clearance, you know, given that he's the embodiment of a pathological liar," Pocan says.

He adds, "The fact that there's so much still unknown about this guy, the fact that he's under legitimate criminal investigations makes this guy very problematic to serve in the role of a member of Congress."

Pocan doesn't see how Santos can last long in Congress because he doesn't have the respect of Democrats and most Republicans.

"His past-due date is coming up pretty quickly," says Pocan. "I think the fact that he's under local, state, multiple federal and international investigations makes it a little hard to be effective."

"I'm guessing there's a lot of buyer's remorse in his congressional district," he adds. "Through these investigations, it certainly looks like he's guilty of potentially some criminal act. And I'm guessing he's trying to keep any resignation as a trade-off for less of a prosecution."

Even if Santos were indicted and charged with a crime or even eventually convicted, he would still have to resign or be expelled by a vote on the House floor.

During his weekly press conference Thursday morning, the new Democratic leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, addressed the ongoing Santos saga.

"It's clear to me that George Santos is not fit to serve in the United States Congress," Jeffries said, adding that it wasn't just his or a Democratic perspective but one that all political points of view should share on both sides of the aisle.

"Three to four of my Republican colleagues, his next-door neighbors in New York, have said George Santos is not fit to serve in Congress," he said.

Jeffries blamed Republicans for allowing Santos to run in the first place.

"Many of us are wondering, how did Republicans let this happen? How did you get behind someone like George Santos, who is so clearly a fraudster?" Jeffries said.

Jeffries said Republicans are now responsible for Santos's ouster.

"The spectacle that is George Santos speaks for itself. He's a complete and total fraud," Jeffries said. "It's now the responsibility of House Republicans to do something about it."

Jeffries listed the investigations into Santos that have already commenced and added, "This is not a partisan issue, but it is an issue that Republicans need to handle."

He told Republicans: "Clean up your house, and you can start with George Santos."

Santos's office did not respond to The Advocate's request for comment.

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