The new head of House Democrats said Thursday that the fate of embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is for GOP leaders to resolve.
Santos, a Long Island freshman, has come under fire for a host of scandals swirling around his campaign. Revelations that he’d fabricated large parts of his résumé and questions about his campaign funding are leading to calls for his resignation or expulsion from Congress.
But Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the House minority leader, said any disciplinary measures are the responsibility of GOP leaders — not Democrats — to institute.
“He’s a complete and total fraud. [He] lied to the voters of the 3rd Congressional District in New York. He deceived and connived his way into Congress, and is now the responsibility of House Republicans to do something about it,” Jeffries told reporters in the Capitol.
Jeffries noted that officials in Albany, as well as in Queens and in Nassau County, have launched investigations into Santos, while the Brazilian government has reopened a probe into charges that Santos had written back checks there years ago.
Separately, a pair of Democrats this week urged the House Ethics Committee to open its own investigation into Santos’s alleged misdeeds — an idea that’s already won the endorsement of top House Republicans.
“I was well-aware of their decision to do so,” Jeffries said. “But any matters before the Ethics Committee are before the Ethics Committee, and should be resolved by members of the Ethics Committee.”
Jeffries, as minority leader, has certain tools at his disposal to force votes on measures to discipline Santos. But he said it’s not the responsibility of Democrats to bail out Republicans.
“This is not a partisan issue, but it is an issue that Republicans need to handle,” he said. “Clean up your house. You can start with George Santos.”
The decision by Democratic leaders to keep their distance from the Santos saga has a practical component, since the minority Democrats no longer control the floor or the committees. But they also have a political reason to steer clear, as Santos has been an embarrassing distraction for Republicans just as they’re taking control of the House — and could continue to be so for as long as he remains in his seat.
Santos was part of the red wave that hit New York during the November midterms, picking up the Nassau County seat vacated by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D), who retired, and helping Republicans win a slight House majority in the new Congress. In the process Santos made history, becoming the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat without the advantage of incumbency.
Yet Santos has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks following a New York Times investigation that raised questions about the accuracy of the life history he had boasted on the campaign trail. Santos had, at various times, told voters that he’d graduated Baruch College; worked with Citigroup and Goldman Sachs; and managed a small, family-based real estate empire.
Santos has since acknowledged that none of those claims are true, though he has remained defiant in vowing to continue to serve in Congress.
The pressure on Santos to step down increased dramatically on Wednesday, when GOP leaders in both Albany and Nassau County called for his resignation — a plea Santos quickly rejected.
At least four sitting House Republicans — New York Reps. Anthony D’Esposito, Nick Langworthy, Nick LaLota and Brandon Williams — have also called for Santos to resign.
Yet GOP leaders have rallied behind Santos, saying he earned his seat when New York voters sent him to Washington.
“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, let him move through that,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters on Wednesday.
“He will continue to serve.”