Since the end of the Civil War, only two members of Congress have ever been expelled. Rep. George Santos, a New York Republican, could become the third member of Congress in the last 160 years to be removed from the House.
The House is expected to vote on a potential expulsion of Santos soon, possibly this week.
Rep. Jim Traficant, D-Ohio, was the last member of the House to be expelled when he was removed in 2002 on bribery charges. He was later given a seven-year prison sentence.
While Santos defeated a similar motion a few weeks ago, this time may be different. A new 56-page report accuses Santos of everything from financial fraud to sexual misconduct. It says, “Rep. Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit. He blatantly stole from his campaign.”
Traficant’s expulsion came after he was convicted. Santos has not been convicted but faces a 23-count federal indictment that accuses him of stealing the identities of those who donated to his campaign and embezzling money. Santos has pleaded not guilty.
Including Traficant, there have only been five members of the House ever expelled. Three of the expulsions were tied to supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War. The fourth expulsion came in 1980 when Rep. Michael Myers, D-Pennsylvania, was convicted of bribery.
There have been numerous instances of members stepping down in the face of a potential expulsion. One such example came in 2006 when Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, stepped down prior to being sentenced to 30 months for corruption tied to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
The process for expulsion
Getting a member expelled is a relatively simple process that requires two-thirds of members to vote in favor of removing a member.
“Yeah, it’s pretty quick. You introduce a resolution, you have a debate, you have a vote, and if you have a two-thirds vote, then the member is removed. It can be as quick as that,” professor Matthew Green of the Catholic University of America said.
In recent days, a number of Democrats and Republicans who voted to keep Santos in office just a few weeks ago have changed their minds. Sources on Capitol Hill tell Scripps News momentum is growing among Republicans behind the scenes to remove him as well.
Ahead of the vote, Santos has said he will not seek reelection next year and he has fought against removal by highlighting the good things he has done for his district. Outside his office he has posted letters schoolchildren wrote him for his support for Israel.
“I feel confident I get to fight it and I’ll have my day in court,” Santos said.