Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday that Rep. George Santos (RN.Y.) would be removed from office if the House Ethics Committee finds the embattled congressman broke the law.
The remark is McCarthy’s most comprehensive comment to date on the potential sanctions Santos could face amid growing controversies and accusations leveled against him.
“If somehow we go through ethics and he broke the law, we will fire him,” McCarthy told reporters at a press conference just outside his office.
“The American public in his district voted for him. He has a responsibility to stand up for what they voted for, to work and make their voices heard here, but at any time, if it reaches a legal level, then we will deal with it, ”he added.
Democratic Representatives Ritchie Torres (NY) and Daniel Goldman (NY) filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee earlier this month, calling on the panel to investigate Santos for failing to file timely, accurate and complete financial disclosure reports. The congressman came under meticulous examination on his finances amid questions that he may have violated campaign finance laws.
It is unclear, however, whether the ethics committee is reviewing the complaint. McCarthy named monday Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) to serve as panel chair, but he has yet to name any other panel members. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) appointed five Democrats to the committee earlier this month.
The ethics committee is notorious for not speaking publicly about its investigations. Santos is also being investigated by prosecutors in New York, and he is the subject of a case in Brazil.
Santos, who represents part of Long Island, has come under intense scrutiny amid revelations that he fabricated parts of his biography and questions about his finances. The New York Republican has admitted to sprucing up his resume but vows to stay on in Congress, arguing his constituents sent him to Washington to serve.
McCarthy deferred to voters in New York’s 3rd congressional district on Tuesday when asked if he only stood with Santos because losing him in Congress would cost Republicans a seat.
“No,” McCarthy answered the question. “Do you know why I’m by his side? Because his constituents voted for him.
“I don’t have the power just because if I disagree with someone or what they said, I remove them from elected office. Now I will hold him to the same level I hold anyone else elected to Congress,” he added.
The House Republican Steering Committee recommended last week that Santos sits on the House Small Business Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, giving the congressman a semblance of normality amid growing scrutiny.