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As Santos Faces Expulsion Vote, Will Movement to Oust Menendez Gain Traction?

George Santos’s days in Congress are numbered. But Chuck Schumer remains silent on corrupt Sen. Bob Menendez.

Sen. Bob Menendez is seen after introducing Edward Sunyol Kiel, nominee to be U.S. district judge for the district of New Jersey, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on judicial nominations in Dirksen Senate Office Building on November 1, 2023.

On Tuesday, after Congress returned from its Thanksgiving break, California Democrat Robert Garcia filed what is known as a “privileged resolution” calling on his colleagues to expel the embattled Long Island Republican George Santos from the House. According to congressional rules, once such a resolution has been filed, House leaders are obligated to schedule a vote within two days. As a result, it’s likely that by week’s end, the incorrigible Mr. Santos, who is facing 23 federal felony charges and who recently was at the wrong end of a damning Ethics Committee report into his activities, will likely be unceremoniously booted from his job.

Even if the expulsion motion somehow falls short, Santos’s days as a Congressmember are already numbered; for, shortly before Thanksgiving, in the wake of the Ethics Committee report he had already announced that he would not seek reelection.

The report found that Santos “knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission; used campaign funds for personal purposes; engaged in fraudulent conduct in connection with RedStone Strategies LLC; and engaged in knowing and willful violations of the Ethics in Government Act as it relates to his Financial Disclosure (FD) Statements filed with the House.”

The allegations weren’t all about high finance, however. Many were simply bizarre: included in the findings were, for instance, reports that the Congressman spent $2,900 of his campaign funds buying Botox products.

The members of the committee, seemingly shocked into action by the sheer range of Santos’s misuse of his office, agreed to forward their findings to the Department of Justice.

Santos has been bedeviled by a slew of allegations of criminal behavior and mendacious statements about his personal history since shortly after he was elected in 2022, when The New York Times uncovered major discrepancies in his résumé. The allegations range from accounts of his illegally cashing checks that weren’t his in Brazil; to his claiming, erroneously, that his grandparents were Holocaust survivors; to his having manufactured large parts of his employment and education history. Even before the committee released its report, Santos’s position had become largely untenable: he was already facing 23 federal felony charges, including wire fraud and identity theft. While that was still 68 fewer charges than GOP presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump faces, for many of Santos’s frustrated colleagues — especially fellow New Yorkers, elected in competitive seats in 2022 and fearful that his tarnished image would hurt them with their key swing voters — it was more than enough to render him unfit to serve in Congress.

In an era of hyper-partisanship, Santos has achieved the seemingly impossible — uniting Democrats and Republicans around a single cause: to rid Congress of a man widely regarded as a fraudster. Sen. Mitt Romney, at the State of the Union, went so far as to tell Santos to his face: “You don’t belong here.”

In early November, several Republican representatives from New York attempted to pass a resolution that would have expelled their colleague from Congress; it failed in the face of broad GOP opposition as well as the withholding of more than 30 Democratic Party votes.

This week, however, in the wake of the Ethics Committee’s report, it’s likely that this time around it will gain more traction. Even Santos has said that he expects to be expelled from the House at the urging of his own colleagues. However, Santos refuses to resign his post ahead of an expulsion vote.

Democrats have been howling with outrage about Santos’s malfeasance for a year now, with many arguing that had now-departed Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy not been willing to tolerate the Long Islander’s foibles in order to protect his razor-thin majority, he would have been booted out long ago. Yet, the party’s outrage on this would ring a whole lot louder and truer had Democratic leaders made a concerted effort to convince their own version of Santos, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, to also vacate his seat. To their discredit, they haven’t.

Menendez was indicted nearly a decade ago on charges that he accepted illegal campaign contributions and expensive trips from a South Florida ophthalmologist. His trial ended with a hung jury. Now, in 2023, Menendez is once again under indictment, this time along with his wife, on charges that he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of bribes in exchange for using his official position to benefit the government of Egypt and to enrich a circle of New Jersey businessmen. When his house was searched, investigators found huge amounts of cash stashed away, along with a number of gold bars.

Many Democrats, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and at least 24 U.S. senators, publicly called on Menendez to resign in the days after his most recent indictment. By the end of September, that number had increased to 30 senators, including his New Jersey colleague, Cory Booker. Yet, in the face of his absolute refusal to countenance stepping aside, and his belief that he can outlast his naysayers this time around as well, those same politicians have gone largely silent. Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pointedly refused to add his voice to those publicly calling on Menendez to quit the Senate, although he did grudgingly acknowledge to CBS that he has had private discussions with Menendez about his future.

Maybe, if the House actually musters the gumption to expel Santos, it may inspire Schumer to take a more active role in the Menendez saga. Then again, Menendez has long demonstrated powerful survival skills in the shark tank that is D.C. If I had to bet, I’d guess that the New Jersey senator isn’t going away anytime soon.

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