House Republicans successfully quashed an effort to hold a vote on expelling George Santos.
Democrats offered an expulsion resolution to put the GOP on record about the criminally-charged congressman.
But Republicans moved to refer it to the House Ethics Committee, effectively tabling it for now.
House GOP leadership on Wednesday successfully sidelined an effort to put rank-and-file Republican lawmakers on record over whether serial fabulist Rep. George Santos deserves to remain in Congress.
Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California offered a privileged resolution on Tuesday that would expel the criminally charged New York Republican from the House if the measure garnered a two-thirds majority of the chamber.
Under House rules, Republicans had two days to take action on the matter.
So on Wednesday evening, instead of scheduling a vote on Garcia's resolution, Republicans moved to refer it to the House Committee on Ethics — a move that Democratic leadership had urged their members to reject.
But the motion passed on Wednesday on a 221-204 party-line vote, effectively tabling the matter for now and allowing Santos, who now faces 13 counts of federal charges including wire fraud and money laundering, to remain a member of Congress.
Seven House Democrats — Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington, Glenn Ivey Maryland, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, Deborah Ross of North Carolina, Veronica Escobar of Texas, and Mark DeSaulnier of California — voted present.
All except Perez and Houlahan are members of the ethics committee.
Cosponsors of the expulsion resolution argued that the committee referral was merely an attempt to defer action on Santos, citing the existence of an ongoing probe from the committee.
"It is simply an effort for the Republicans to avoid having to take an up-or-down vote on whether or not George Santos belongs here," said Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman of New York, one of the key co-sponsors of the resolution, at a press conference on Wednesday morning.
But Republicans argued that expelling Santos before he's been convicted would set a bad precedent, while House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that he wanted the committee to "move rapidly" on the issue.
Even House Republicans from New York — some of the strongest intraparty critics of Santos — voted for the referral resolution.
"Never before has a member of Congress, from either party, been removed without a criminal conviction or a referral," said Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York in a statement explaining why he would vote for the referral motion, adding that he still believed Santos should resign and that the indicted Republican would do so "if he had any dignity or decency."
There's also the political reality that McCarthy can ill afford to lose a reliable vote: Republicans hold the chamber by a four-vote margin, and McCarthy's grasp of the speaker's gavel depended on Santos in January.
It remains unclear now how the Ethics Committee will proceed.
Historically, when a lawmaker has been criminally charged, prosecutors have asked the committee to pause any investigations that it may be making into that lawmaker.
And the committee is known for dragging its feet, owing to the fact that it's a entity made up of lawmakers policing other lawmakers.
In the meantime, the criminally charged congressman will continue to serve as a loyal vote for Republicans.
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