Congress Might Finally Rid Itself of George Santos
Plus: A Ukraine and Israel aid package is still a long way from becoming reality.
Let’s start with something pleasant: Congress is back in session and later this evening the Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit for the season. Per the Architect of the Capitol, this year’s tree is a “63-foot Norway spruce from the Greenbrier Ranger District in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest.” Since the tradition started in 1964, this marks the 37th spruce chosen for the Capitol, compared to just 21 firs and a New York Jets-esque record for pines, with only 2 trees to date.
The Capitol always puts up the tree right after Thanksgiving, which in my opinion is the correct order. But I’m interested in everyone else’s view: Do you put up decorations before or after Thanksgiving? Let me know in the comments or over on Threads.
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Santos’s final hours (maybe)
On to the George Santos expulsion efforts. Just before the Thanksgiving break, the House Ethics Committee finalized its probe into congressman-of-mystery, finding gross campaign finance violations fitting in with his long pattern of dishonesty and the litany of criminal allegations against him. The morning after, Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), the chairman of the Ethics Committee, filed an expulsion resolution. This afternoon, Reps. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), who each sponsored resolutions to expel Santos earlier in the year, filed a privileged resolution to expel Santos. The House will have to take it up within two legislative days. Guest has not indicated whether his resolution is privileged or not, which Goldman told reporters was a factor in moving forward with his own.
Since the publication on November 16 of the Ethics Committee’s report, many lawmakers who voted to save Santos last time around announced that they would change their votes when another expulsion resolution is brought to the floor. They’ve all been given the green light thanks to Guest, who after several months of near silence, has made clear he wants Santos out of Congress.
“The amount of fraud and abuse was something that was unprecedented. We've never seen that before,” Guest said Monday on a Mississippi radio show. “I do believe that, based on the extent of the conduct, that expulsion is an appropriate remedy.”
In a Substack post, Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.) cited Guest’s blessing as an indication this will be a near unanimous vote. (Jackson was one of the Democrats who begrudgingly voted against expulsion during the last attempt.)
It will be the first time in 20 years that’s happened, but the ethics report was absolutely damning and the latest attempt to expel him is being led by the Chairman of the Ethics Committee. That’s a clear sign that this is a leadership-approved expulsion. My only curiosity here is, will anyone (other than Santos…) vote against it?
There will be at least one member who will get Santos’s back: Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.). The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported that in a letter Tuesday, Higgins urged his colleagues to support Santos while disparaging the Ethics Committee report as “wrapped in a media incensed public disclosure that any reasonable man can see is the Congressional equivalent of a public crucifixion.” I’m not quite sure what that is supposed to mean, but here’s Higgins’s bottom line: “I’m a solid no on expulsion, and I encourage every Member to carefully consider what kind of precedent we’re setting.”
One person doing his best to remain neutral is Speaker Mike Johnson. During a lucrative fundraising trip to Florida, Johnson told reporters that nothing’s been decided:
It remains to be seen. I’ve spoken to Congressman Santos at some length over the holiday and talked to him about his options, but we’ll have to see. It’s not yet determined but we’ll be talking about that when we get back tomorrow.
Don’t forget that Santos has the option to resign and thereby avoid the indelible stench of having been forcibly removed from Congress à la Jim Traficant back in 2002. But that would require some self-reflection and a demonstrated sense of shame. Although he announced after the Ethics report came out that he won’t be running for re-election, he has otherwise remained his defiant self, revealing his plans in a social media post yesterday:
Santos declared last week that he would wear an expulsion as a “badge of honor.”
I'll be the sixth expelled member of Congress in the history of Congress. And guess what? I'll be the only one expelled without a conviction.
As with all things regarding Santos, he has a poor record with the truth. You would have to be a dupe of the highest caliber to take anything he says at face value. It’s also true that what he says and what he does are often at odds and can change by the minute, so don’t be shocked if something unexpected happens.
Ukraine and Israel are being hung out to dry
In October, the removal of Kevin McCarthy from the House speakership and the ensuing dysfunction stalled business for three weeks. Since then, the Republican majority has moved at a glacial pace as they kicked the government funding can down the road until early next year.
House Republicans irresponsibly paired a $14.3 billion Israel aid bill with massive, deficit-spiking cuts to the Internal Revenue Service. That proposal was a nonstarter for the Democratic-controlled Senate. Now that it’s been shelved, lawmakers are moving to compromise on a larger aid effort that supports both Israel and Ukraine. But it’s not without its own sticking points.
House Republicans want provisions addressing border security, regardless of whether that’s actually related to the conflicts on the other side of the globe.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is bringing a combination Israel–Ukraine–Tawain aid bill to the floor this week. But because it won’t address border security, it’ll likely have to sit in limbo until the House gets its act together, according to House Speaker Mike Johnson.
Johnson struck a different tone than he has in the past and sounded a lot more like Mitch McConnell, acknowledging Monday the need for Ukraine funding:
Ukraine is another priority of course. We can’t allow Vladimir Putin to march through Europe and we understand the necessity of assisting there. What we’ve said is that if there is to be additional assistance to Ukraine, which most members of Congress believe is important, we have to also work on changing our own border policy. . . . I think most of our Senate colleagues recognize that those two things need to move together.
The comments from the leaders of each chamber sound like things are perhaps moving in the right direction, despite the very big policy priority differences.
But not everyone is optimistic about getting an aid package done before Congress calls it quits for the year on or around December 15.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said in a recent NBC interview that he doesn’t expect Ukraine or Israel funding to be finalized until 2024.