If an investigation into Rep. George Santos (R-NY) finds that he broke the law in falsifying major aspects of his resume and bio while campaigning for his House seat, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters on Tuesday that he will be removed from the House.
"If for some way when we go through Ethics and he has broken the law, then we will remove him," McCarthy told reporters outside his Capitol office, according to Axios.
McCarthy defended standing by Santos while the House Ethics committee investigates because "his constituents voted for him."
"I do not have the power, simply because I disagree with somebody on what they have said, that I will remove them from elected office," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said last week that he was "always skeptical" about Santos' resume, in which Santos claimed several degrees from colleges that have no record of his attendance or graduation, as well as a job at Goldman Sachs that the company disputes.
Santos also claimed that his family were Holocaust survivors, when there is no record of them being Jewish. He further claimed that his mother was in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, when records show she was out of the country on that date.
In a direct affront to McCarthy, a member of his staff posed as McCarthy's chief of staff to raise money during his campaign. The Santos campaign later corrected the misconception, and McCarthy said he spoke to Santos about the impersonation.
There is no law against lying on a House campaign resume or bio, but there are laws against lying on paperwork filed to run for the House. The ethics investigation aims to find out whether Santos actually broke any laws to determine what should happen to him.
The problem with dropping the hammer on Santos is that the Republican majority is already razor-thin. If Santos is ousted, the majority would drop to three votes, which means that any Republican defections could be catastrophic.
Santos flipped a previously Democrat district, which means a special election could seat a Democrat in his place.
McCarthy has said that Santos will not be put on any important committees or panels until he gets through the House Ethics investigation.
Santos has been defiant in his efforts to stay in his seat, refusing to admit to any serious wrongdoing and minimizing the "embellishments" to his resume.
“Look, I’ve worked my entire life,” Santos said on the War Room podcast Thursday. “I’ve lived an honest life. I’ve never been accused of ... any bad doings, so, you know, it’s ... the equity of my hard-working self, and I’ve invested inside of me.”
McCarthy is wise not to give in too quickly to calls that Santos resign his seat. It would not be that difficult for Democrats to try to get dirt on a few more swing district Republicans and try to regain a majority in the House during the current term, if they thought McCarthy would insist on resignation at the first sign of impropriety, real or imagined.