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George Santos is expelled from Congress by an overwhelming vote

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

George Santos is out. The House of Representatives has voted to expel the first-term Republican from Congress. Here's his fellow Republican New Yorker, Anthony D'Esposito, after the vote.

ANTHONY D'ESPOSITO: You go to the barbershop. You go to church. You go get a slice of good New York pizza, and people want to talk about George Santos. What we should be talking about is the work that we're doing here to secure our border, to rein in spending. We didn't want to spend the first 11 months talking about George Santos, and I hope today is the beginning of not having to talk about him anymore.

SUMMERS: Santos is now just the sixth member of Congress to be expelled by the House ever. NPR congressional reporter Eric McDaniel is on Capitol Hill and watch the vote happen. Hi, Eric.

ERIC MCDANIEL, BYLINE: Hi, Juana.

SUMMERS: So Eric, tell me, what happened? How did this all go down?

MCDANIEL: So all but four Democrats and nearly half of Republicans said it was time for him to go. The final. Tally in this vote was 311-114, with some folks saying present, some not voting - anyway, more than enough to hit the two-thirds threshold, and they've already changed the locks on Santos' office. But look. I will say, until the vote started, I actually didn't know which way this was going to go. Speaker Mike Johnson - he's a constitutional lawyer - he said he was concerned about precedent here.

Santos has, of course, not been convicted of a crime, but Johnson said he wasn't going to try and push his members either way on this. And then this morning, Johnson announced he was voting to keep Santos, and so did the rest of Republican leadership. Just imagine if our boss came to us and said, no pressure, whatever you decide, but this is what me and the editor-in-chief are doing. That's a lot of pressure. But then there was another dramatic development, if you want to hear about it.

SUMMERS: I mean, Eric, you know I love drama.

MCDANIEL: So there was an email. Hold on. It gets more exciting. It was from Ohio Republican Max Miller to his fellow Republicans, and I got my hands on it. Miller said he himself was a victim of Santos' alleged credit card fraud, and so was his mom. He says they're out tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees trying to fix it. And so that - yeah, he was going to vote to oust Santos.

SUMMERS: Didn't expect that term. But credit card fraud, that was one of those federal criminal charges that got Santos into this whole mess in the first place, right?

MCDANIEL: Right. There are 23 federal criminal charges. Santos is accused of stealing money from his campaign, deceiving his donors. Those allegations were largely backed up in this report by Republican - Republican-led report. A bipartisan group of lawmakers put it together on the House Ethics Committee, and I'm sure folks have heard all about the colorful details of Santos' life and what he spent the money on, including cosmetic Botox and designer clothing.

SUMMERS: I mean, honestly, some of this sounds like it could be straight out of reality TV. There are tons of juicy details. But this does have real, serious political implications, right?

MCDANIEL: Right. Republicans had to decide here whether Santos' conduct was grave enough to trump their political needs. I know I'm rehashing the basics, but House Republicans have a whisper-thin majority. And in spite of all of the distraction that Santos posed, he was a reliable conservative vote. So Republicans now just saw their majority shrink from four to three. And they were, of course, already having trouble coming to an agreement on stuff with Santos there. And now, well, it's even harder because three people is less of a cushion than four people.

SUMMERS: Math there. What's next, Eric, for Santos and his seat?

MCDANIEL: His time in Congress has ended, but his legal troubles are obviously not over with. He has to go through that whole process. He could spend some time in the big house if things don't work out, so there's that to watch. But from my perch here on the Hill, I'm watching the special election for Santos' seat that will take place early next year. The party committees will pick the candidates, but he might well be replaced by a Democrat. Biden carried this district by 10 points, or maybe he won't. I don't know. That's why they have elections, so Long Islanders can sort this out over slices of good New York pizza.

SUMMERS: NPR congressional reporter Eric McDaniel. Thank you, Eric.

MCDANIEL: Thank you, Juana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.