Iowa’s four U.S. House members stuck with the Republican majority by voting on May 17 to refer a motion to expel U.S. Representative George Santos to the House Ethics Committee. The House had already referred the motion to that committee in February. But after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Santos on thirteen felony counts including fraudulent campaign contributions and unemployment insurance fraud, Democratic Representative Robert Garcia used a House rule to force a floor vote on the motion.
A two-thirds vote would have been needed to expel Santos. House members approved the referral instead along party lines, 221 to 204.
Although House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters, “I would like the Ethics Committee to move rapidly on this,” the committee’s standard practice is not to conduct its own investigation until after criminal probes have been resolved.
Longtime Congressional reporter Jamie Dupree observed in his “Regular Order” newsletter, “don’t be fooled by GOP talk of a quick review by the Ethics Committee. History shows that is unlikely.” The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a memo noting that the last four House Ethics Committee investigations of members who had not resigned or been convicted of crimes took 479 days, 763 days, 420 days, and 835 days.
Iowa’s Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) have not commented publicly on the Santos indictment or whether they think the New York Republican should serve out his term. In a statement posted to social media on May 17, Representative Zach Nunn (IA-03) depicted his vote as a way to hold Santos accountable.
The American people deserve transparency, honesty, and accountability from their elected representatives. George Santos has not lived up to those ideals in any way. His presence in the House of Representatives is casting a shadow of illegitimacy over everything we do. That’s why I just voted to refer him to the Ethics Committee so that he can be held accountable for his pathological lying. This is the best way to ensure that he doesn’t do any more damage, and while ultimately his fate is up to the New York voters who elected him, if he is convicted as a result of his indictment earlier this month, there’s no doubt in my mind he should resign.
If the GOP held a larger House majority, leaders would probably have already leaned on Santos to resign. As things stand, McCarthy can afford to lose only a handful of votes on any bill or resolution. Santos provided the deciding vote to pass the recent House plan to raise the debt ceiling for one year in exchange for future spending cuts.
Democrats have indicated they will target Iowa’s first and third Congressional districts in 2024. Depending on how the criminal charges against Santos play out, yesterday’s vote could become an issue in the next IA-01 and IA-03 campaigns. (Santos is better known than the typical first-term member of Congress, as his many fabrications made him a staple of late-night talk show comedy.)
A DCCC news release on May 17 foreshadowed the tactic, accusing Miller-Meeks of voting “to protect the lies, deceit, and disgrace of George Santos in the U.S. House of Representatives. Miller-Meeks is too weak to stand up to her Washington party bosses – and Southeast Iowans will remember.” An identical statement criticized Nunn for the same vote.
UPDATE: The DCCC announced on May 19 that it is running digital ads against Nunn and Miller-Meeks through Memorial Day, saying the Republicans are “too weak to stand up to the extremes in their party.” A sample ad included in the news release appeared to link to this Bleeding Heartland post.