Here's what to expect around the House vote to expel Santos — and next steps if he's ousted

Rep. George Santos is interviewed by FOX News in the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building before a vote to expel him from the House of Representatives on December 1, in Washington, DC.
Rep. George Santos is interviewed by FOX News in the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building before a vote to expel him from the House of Representatives on December 1, in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House is expected to vote soon on a motion that would expel New York Republican Rep. George Santos from the chamber.

Expulsion is the most severe form of punishment for a lawmaker in the House, and only five members have ever been expelled from the chamber. It requires a two-thirds majority vote to succeed – a high bar to clear.

The process: Members debated the resolution on the floor on Thursday, and they are expected to move straight to the vote Friday. An expulsion vote is not like a censure in that the member is not admonished by the chamber or shamed as they are with censure. 

What is next: According to a former House parliamentarian, an expulsion is administratively handled the same way as a vacancy, including death or resignation. The House clerk assumes control of the office and makes decisions on behalf of that office. They will decide how Santos’ office is cleared out, among other steps. His district office remains intact for constituent needs. 

However, unlike previous modern day expulsions – Michael Myers in 1980 and Jim Traficant in 2002 – Santos has not been convicted of a felony. House Rules stipulate that “a former member…shall not be entitled to the privilege of admission to the Hall of the House and rooms leading thereto if such individual…has been convicted by a court of record for the commission of a crime in relation to that individual’s election to, or service to, the House.” Until there is a conviction, Santos retains the privileges as a now-former member of Congress. That includes access to the House floor, dining room, gym and cloakroom but not security.

The expulsion resolution could have stripped Santos of those privileges ahead of his conviction, but there is no clause in the motion to do that. Both Traficant’s and Myers' privileges were stripped immediately following the expulsion vote because they had previously been convicted of their crimes. 

But that also could change: The House makes rules changes all the time regarding privileges for former members. Privileges were stripped for former members during Covid-19, and floor privileges are usually restricted for former members for the State of the Union address. Should Santos 1) be expelled; and 2) continue to exercise the privileges as a former member, we expect that a rules change would come to address that issue. 

Remember: Apart from the Ethics Committee investigation, Santos has also pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports.

The math: Reminder, it takes two-thirds majority for the expulsion resolution to succeed, 290. Assuming all Democrats support it, would need around 77 Republicans to join. 24 Republicans already supported it last time. So 53 new Republicans need to sign on; 20 already have.

What happens in New York: The House clerk will inform the governor of New York that there is now a vacancy in the third district of New York. It is then up to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul to schedule a special election to replace him. New York State law stipulates that the governor make a proclamation of a special election within ten days, with an election occurring “not less than seventy nor more than eighty days” following the proclamation. There is some fungibility, however.

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