Turlock congressional representatives Rep. John Duarte (R-Hughson) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-El Dorado Hills) were on opposite sides Friday in the vote to expel of Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) from Congress.
Santos became just the sixth House member expelled in the nation’s history by a vote of 311-214. An expulsion vote requires two-thirds support of the House — 290 of the 435 members — to pass.
Duarte, who represents the portion of Turlock that sits in the 13th congressional district, was one of 105 Republicans that joined with 206 Democrats to vote to expel the controversial Santos.
“The ethics committee came back with findings that were unanimous, and they were very severe allegations and, in some cases, criminal allegations,” said Duarte, who voted against Santos’ expulsion in November. “For the purposes of expulsion from Congress, he received all due process, and I was satisfied with the committee’s recommendation.
“But I also completely respect my colleagues that voted the other way. They had to vote their conscience.”
McClintock (R-El Dorado Hills), who represents the chunk of Turlock in the 5th congressional district, was one of 112 GOP House members — along with two Democrats — who voted against expulsion.
In a released statement, McClintock says he does not condone the conduct that is alleged, but opposes the House being able to expel an elected member.
“The power of expulsion negates the right of the people to choose the representative they most want to speak for them in Congress. Such an extreme power should be used with extreme care. Until now, the precedent for expulsion has been limited to acts of disloyalty (joining the confederacy) and conviction of serious crimes involving the office. Santos has been charged with such crimes, but has not been convicted. Although Congress is not required to wait for a verdict, I believe it should. Trial by a jury of one’s peers is an essential element of our jurisprudence, and a congressional committee, buffeted by partisanship, political pressures and personal relationships is a poor substitute.
“Given the heightened political passions that are afoot these days, I think we should resist expanding the traditional grounds for expulsion and trust our justice system and our citizens to resolve the issue, as surely they will.”
The expulsion marked the final congressional chapter in a spectacular fall from grace for Santos. Celebrated as an up-and-comer after he flipped a district from Democrats last year, Santos' life story began to unravel before he was even sworn into office. Reports emerged that he had lied about having Jewish ancestry, a career at top Wall Street firms and a college degree, among other things.
Then, in May, Santos was indicted by federal prosecutors on multiple charges, turning his presence in the House into a growing distraction and embarrassment to the party.
Santos joins a short list of lawmakers expelled from the House, and for reasons uniquely his own. Of the previous expulsions in the House, three were for siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War. The remaining two occurred after the lawmakers were convicted of crimes in federal court, the most recent in 2002.
Seeking to remain in office, Santos had appealed to colleagues to let the court process play out. He warned of the precedent they would set by expelling a member not yet convicted of a crime.
“This will haunt them in the future,” Santos told lawmakers on Thursday evening as they debated his removal.
Santos had survived two previous expulsion attempts, but a scathing House Ethics Committee report released the week before the Thanksgiving holiday appeared to turn colleagues decisively against him.
After eight months of work, Ethics Committee investigators said they had found “overwhelming evidence” that Santos had broken the law and exploited his public position for his own profit.
Santos' troubles are far from over, as he faces trial next year in New York. Federal prosecutors in a 23-count indictment have accused him of duping donors, stealing from his campaign and lying to Congress.
The indictment alleges specifically that Santos stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. He then wired some of the money to his personal bank account and used the rest to pad his campaign coffers, prosecutors say. Santos has pleaded not guilty,
Santos’ expulsion narrows the GOP’s majority to 221-213 and Democrats will have a good opportunity to fill the vacancy.
Now that he has been removed from office, Santos' congressional office will remain operational under the management of the Clerk of the House. No additional staff can be hired, but the current staff can stay on and perform constituent casework. They will be unable to undertake any legislative activity, such as the drafting of bills.
Santos, for his part, hasn't lost all the privileges afforded to former members. He will still be permitted to walk onto the House floor and fraternize with members.
According to House rules, any former lawmaker can maintain their floor privileges unless they are a lobbyist, foreign agent, have a direct interest in the bill being considered at the time, or have been convicted of a crime in relation to their election or service.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.