Apparently Congress Is Stuck With George Santos [Corrected]

I’m afraid I implied in an earlier post regarding New York’s pants-on-fire Congressman-elect George Santos that the House could refuse to seat him or force him to resign. That was wrong. His conduct, while unethical, did not breach House ethics rules because he wasn’t a member of Congress when he lied his head off gulling voters into electing him based on his complete misrepresentation of his background and qualifications. It’s a matter of jurisdiction. Why, punishing him would be like impeaching a former President who was no longer in office!

Prof. Turley, a Constitutional scholar, clarified the situation in a column for The Hill. He wrote in part,

The problem is that, for the most part, he is accused of something that is no crime in Congress: lying…More practically, Santos has constitutional defenses to any effort to bar him from taking his seat to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District…. [Promised]investigations appear to be premised on the notion that a member of Congress can be denied a seat due to running on false claims….Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly, a Republican, announced an investigation into “the numerous fabrications and inconsistencies associated with Congressman-elect Santos.” She added that “the residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress. No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”

The fact, however, is that no congressional district anywhere in the country is guaranteed “an honest and accountable representative.”…[Santos] must be seated if he is guilty only of lying about his credentials and background…Many Santos critics cite the fact that the Constitution expressly mandates in Section 5, Article I, that “Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own Members.” Those decisions on the outcome of elections have been treated as largely final and non-justiciable. However, this case is not a question over the counting or certification of votes but, rather, over the claims used to gain votes.

I had forgotten the Adam Clayton Powell case; Turley reminded me:

In 1969, the House voted to prevent Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., (D-N.Y.) from taking his seat after he was charged with misappropriation of public funds. An almost unanimous Supreme Court rejected his exclusion, in Powell v. McCormack, and held that the question of seating a member is limited to the qualifications stated in the Constitution. While a member can be expelled for misconduct as a member, the court held that the seating of a member is governed by the voters and the fundamental principle, stated by Hamilton, “that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.”

Turley not only emphasizes that “honesty is not a requirement for taking office,” he cites several current examples of office-holders who, it can be argued, lied their way to power:

..Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who claimed to have served in Vietnam, to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who claimed to have Native American heritage. On the Republican side, former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was found to have misrepresented his military service

Turley adds, “President Joe Biden’s false claims have become the virtual basis of a drinking game in Washington, after he claimed everything from being arrested with Nelson Mandela to graduating at the top of his class.” That’s funny: David Brooks assured me that it was Donald Trump and only Donald Trump who created the culture of lying in politics that produced Santos.

I’m convinced: Santos has to be seated. That does not mean that all members of Congress, including Republicans, shouldn’t treat him like the proverbial skunk at the picnic. He should get no committee assignments. He should be shunned in the classic sense: nobody should speak to him, have lunch with him, or acknowledge him. If he speaks on the floor of the House, all members present should leave, or better yet, stand with their backs to him. They should make it clear that no legislation with his name on it will receive a single vote. There should be a letter signed by every member of Congress telling him to resign delivered to his desk on his first day as a House member, and a copy of that letter should be on his desk every morning for as long as he has his seat.

House members have it in their power to make staying in Congress worse for George Santos than being expelled. They should do exactly that.

18 thoughts on “Apparently Congress Is Stuck With George Santos [Corrected]

  1. I listened to Matt Taibbi and Walter Kern on “America This Week” and they had an interesting take. If Santos could be shunned/isolated as you suggest, perhaps he could turn his indiscretions into a weekly forum not only acknowledging but also including the most spectacular lies told by other Congressmen. He could be the lone wolf who takes the podium every Monday and reports the lies he told the prior week as well as the lies that other House members told and what impact that had on legislation, the country’s budget/economic well being, the wealth of the Congressman in question, the benefits to the party represented, the governance in the House and ultimately, the impact on the citizenry. How entertaining, and enlightening, would that be?

  2. Congress is stuck with alot of people who have egregiously lied about themselves. It’s only a big deal *now* because legions of leftist acolytes in the media have the time to dig up enough controversy over this idiot to try to close the gap a little more in the House of Representatives.

    If this was any other year with a huge Republican lead or any size of Democrat lead, not a single comment would be made by anyone, anywhere.

    Why wouldn’t Republicans go ahead and start playing dirty since the game has been played against them now exactly like this for generations.

  3. I’m still writing my new Congressman as soon as he’s sworn in and telling him to do everything legal to get rid of Rep. Santos. It’s these kind of people that make ordinary citizens so disgusted with politicians. Hopefully the people of that district in New York know well they were duped and dump Santos in 2024 for a real candidate.

    • “It’s these kind of people that make ordinary citizens so disgusted with politicians.”

      The problem is that the vast majority of politicians today are “this kind of people”. Santos’ case is only worse than many of his soon-to-be colleagues in degree, not in substance. Politics has become such a dirty business that it only attracts the lowest of the low, or naive idealists. And the scumbags, with rare exceptions, generally corrupt the idealists in short order. Santos is just a more visible symptom of the cancer that’s rotted our public institutions for decades.

  4. … An almost unanimous Supreme Court rejected his exclusion, in Powell v. McCormack, and held that the question of seating a member is limited to the qualifications stated in the Constitution. While a member can be expelled for misconduct as a member, the court held that the seating of a member is governed by the voters and the fundamental principle, stated by Hamilton, “that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.”

    And yet an early congressman-elect from Utah (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._H._Roberts) was barred because of his continuing advocacy of polygamy, which of course reflected the views of his support base. (Similar things certainly delayed formal statehood for Utah – that was something I picked up on when proof reading some chapters of his history of the world for an eminent historian.) How can we reconcile this historical fact with the views provided later by the court, in this other case?

    • If the Utah case didn’t get to SCOTUS, the Court wouldn’t have ruled on it. Congress has done lots of things it supposedly can’t do, but someone has to sue for it to be reviewed and knocked down.

      • If the Utah case didn’t get to SCOTUS, the Court wouldn’t have ruled on it. Congress has done lots of things it supposedly can’t do, but someone has to sue for it to be reviewed and knocked down.

        But Roberts did fight the ban by congress, though. What could have stopped his process of resistance from reaching an equivalent result? That is, he was indeed willing to take legal action, so what got in the way?

        And, of course, if that is indeed what happened to Roberts – congress acting improperly, but acting all the same – then it remains a realistic option as regards this Santos fellow, too.

        • Robert died in 1933. The relevant supreme court case was decided in 1969.

          There is a material difference between Congress taking a borderline action that had never been challenged in court, and directly defying a relevant Supreme Court verdict. Congress refusing to seat or expell Santos is simply not a “realistic option”. Congress cannot fix the unethical quagmire that is Santos, by passing unconstitutional resolutions. The ends do not justify the means.

          • Robert died in 1933. The relevant supreme court case was decided in 1969.

            That’s missing what I was asking: given that Roberts did fight the ban, why wasn’t there a ruling to that effect from that fight? I am not saying that a later ruling should have been binding earlier, but that the earlier case(s) should have proceeded along the same lines, so why didn’t it(they)?

            There is a material difference between Congress taking a borderline action that had never been challenged in court, and directly defying a relevant Supreme Court verdict. Congress refusing to seat or expell Santos is simply not a “realistic option”. Congress cannot [emphasis added] fix the unethical quagmire that is Santos, by passing unconstitutional resolutions. The ends do not justify the means.

            Since, if anything, Congress has shown itself ever more capable of ultra vires stuff over the years:-

            – These days, for this lot, no, there is no material difference, not if they spin it as they do.

            – That makes it a realistic option.

            – Oh, yes, it can expel or refuse to seat Santos; “can” does not mean “is authorised to” but “is able to”.

            – And, finally, for Congress, what has “the ends do not justify the means” got to do with anything anyway?

            I was simply pointing out what was within their effective ability, not what was within their authority.

  5. The two saddest sentences in the column are”he is accused of something that is no crime in Congress: Lying” and that “honesty is not a requirement for taking office.”
    The irony is that this lying congressman comes from the same area as lying Senator Schumer and the dis honest Congresswoman AOC.

  6. Thanks for the Adam Clayton Powell snippet. I remember him. He was certainly a controversial figure, to say the least. Must have been one of the first black guys in Congress. I was pretty young at the time, but I remember him being splashed all over Life Magazine.

  7. I’m pretty certain most everyone here would agree about the hypocrisy of pillorying Santos while ignoring the same transgressions from numerous other politicians, including biden. Whatever measures they may ultimately decide to take against Santos should be equally applied to all the other liars.
    But we all know it doesn’t work that way in the DC swamp.

  8. It seems that Art 1, Sec 5 has an exclusion clause (clause 1) and an expulsion clause:
    Article I, Section 5, Clause 2:

    Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

    These are separate powers and it seems that the House could just proceed under clause 2 after he is seated? Am I wrong? I understand it needs 2/3 concurrence but it is possible?

  9. I will quote my longtime Usenet ally, Christopher Charles Morton, who wrote about General Mark Milley.

    https://forum.pafoa.org/showthread.php?t=379970&p=4514281#post4514281

    When does Milley get squashed like a bug? If you can get away with treason, and even be PRAISED for it, who gives a shit about petty insubordination?

    It’s like Guillotining Wenona Ryder for shoplifting cosmetics while giving Bernie Madoff the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    If Adam Schiff gets to be seated despite his track record of lies, so should George Santos.

    • But Santos is sui generis, ME. The difference between Sshiff’s mendacity and a candidate completely misrepresenting almost every aspect of his background, education and career is material. Schiff has shown that he doesn’t deserve to be in Congress, while Santos hid the fact that he never should have been elected to Congress.

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