In a bipartisan vote on Friday, the House of Representatives expelled Rep. George Santos, a New York Republican whose alleged lies and ethics violations made him the first lawmaker kicked out of the House without being convicted of a crime or accused of treason.
Local experts say that moderate Republicans were more likely to vote for expulsion while Trump Republicans were less likely to vote to remove Santos, citing his lack of criminal convictions.
Reps. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside and Mike Simpson of Idaho Falls were among 105 Republicans who voted in favor of the expulsion. Rep. Russ Fulcher, who represents North Idaho, was one of 112 GOP lawmakers to oppose the removal.
The move required a two-thirds majority of House members who cast a vote. Every Democrat from the Northwest – and nearly everyone in the party – voted to expel Santos, while two Democrats voted no and two others voted “present.”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, was one of eight members who did not vote. A spokesman said she missed the vote, which took place on a day when the House is typically in recess, due to a family obligation.
In a statement, Simpson said he had opposed two earlier votes to expel Santos because the Ethics Committee had not yet completed its investigation.
“However, the overwhelming evidence found in the report makes it clear that Mr. Santos’ actions are unethical and that he is unfit to serve,” Simpson said. “This type of conduct is unbecoming for a Member of Congress and has no place in the People’s House, which is why I voted in favor of expulsion.”
Santos had few defenders, but some members of both parties expressed concern about the precedent that would be set by voting to expel a lawmaker who had been indicted but not tried. Prior to Santos, only five House members and 15 senators had been expelled in the nation’s history, with most of those expulsions due to lawmakers supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War, according to the Congressional Research Service.
“I voted against expulsion to protect the integrity of the formal process of receiving a conviction before expulsion,” Fulcher said in a statement. “I respect the hard work of the bipartisan Ethics Committee, however, I do not want to support setting a brand-new historical precedent.”
The more conservative or Trump wing of the Republican party was likely more cautious to vote for expulsion in part because potential questions about condemning former President Donald Trump after his multiple indictments, said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service.
“They worry about the precedent of doing it before a conviction,” Clayton said. “Because then they have to defend, how do you support Donald Trump, who has been indicted.”
He noted that McMorris Rodgers has attempted to “straddle the divide” making her lack of vote unsurprising.
Members of the House in more competitive districts, likely don’t want to answer questions about Santos’ behavior and therefore had more incentive to vote for expulsion, he said.
“There’s an electoral calculation taking place,” Clayton said.
Moderate and usually more establishment Republicans are often from more moderate districts compared to Trump Republicans who are often from solidly red districts.
“My explanation for that would be that it’s the more partisan wing of the Republican Party, the ones who didn’t want to see their majority shrink so they were willing to put up with Santos,” Clayton said. “They’re less establishment oriented so they’re less concerned with establishment norms.”
Clayton said he was surprised at the number of Republicans who voted to expel Santos.
“Historically, it’s significant because it shows Congress, in particular the House, is willing to police itself,” Clayton said.
In an era of declining norms of decorum, the vote should be heartening, he said.
The main difference between Santos’ expulsion and past expulsions isn’t the lack of conviction, Clayton argues, but instead that Santos refused to resign in the face of a large amount of evidence of egregious misconduct.
“I think any other member would have resigned before it came to an expulsion vote,” Clayton said. “You had a member who was just beyond shame.”
A previous vote to expel Santos on Nov. 1 – before the Ethics Committee released its report – failed, with most Republicans and nearly a quarter of Democrats opposing the resolution or abstaining from the vote.
“Good riddance,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wrote in response to the vote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Corruption of any kind has no place in Congress.”
With Santos gone, the House GOP majority becomes even slimmer, giving Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., only a handful of votes to spare.
Democrats face good odds to win his seat, which covers parts of Queens and Long Island, in a special election. Rep. Suzan DelBene of Medina, Washington, who leads House Democrats’ campaign arm, sought to link all Republicans with Santos in a post on X.
“House Republicans have known since he was nominated that George Santos was a liar and grifter, but they blocked every attempt to expel him from Congress,” DelBene wrote. “House Democrats are ready to get to work and take back this seat, moving the House one step closer to delivering for the middle class and working families once more.”