Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Could George Santos torch the House by vacating the Speaker

Could George Santos torch the House by vacating the Speaker
Getty Images

Kosar is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the co-editor of “Congress Overwhelmed: Congressional Capacity and Prospects for Reform” (University of Chicago Press, 2020). He hosts the Understanding Congress podcast.

The other day, George Santos (R-NY) took to X (formerly Twitter) to decry his enemies and victimization. Part of the tweet said, “What the “ethicscommittee” did today was not part of due process, what they did was poison the jury pool on my ongoing investigation with the DOJ. This was a dirty biased act and one that tramples all over my rights.”


He went on to say he will be holding a press conference on November 30th at 8:00AM on the Capitol steps.

While jawing about this weirdness with a former Hill staffer, I wondered, “How will Santos exit the chamber?”

He already has said he is not going to run for reelection.

The House of Representatives may vote to expel him today November 29th. (The most recent effort failed by a vote of 179-213 —with 19 legislators voting “present” on November 1.) The recent Ethics Committee report is damning. Representatives who previously felt thatdue process and fairness necessitated that they reserve judgment now are free to drop the hammer.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

So how will Santos respond to that vote once he knows it is coming? He could go gently into the night. He might give a farewell speech like Ohio Democrat James Traficant did in 2002 after he got the boot.

Or Rep. Santos instead might torch the House. Specifically, what if he demanded recognition the moment the House of Representatives restarted and raised a question of privilege to vacate the speakership?

Wait, you ask, why would he do that?

Answer: Why not? As the above tweet and his other public declarations make clear, he feels betrayed and scorned. Santos has every reason to fight and keep up the act that he is a victim. Additionally, vacating the Speaker would delay the vote on his own expulsion— no Speaker means the GOP would leave the floor to huddle in conference and figure out who is in charge. And if past is a prologue, that could take a while. Not to be forgotten is that pulling this maneuver would be sweet revenge on his party for scorning him.

And, obviously, trying to vacate the chair would make for great theater, and Santos is all about drama.

So what would happen if Rep. Santos gave it a whirl?

Now, the motion to vacate (MTV) is privileged, so it cuts the line in front of other legislative business. The Speaker might respond to Santos’ question by refusing to recognize him, but that may well fail. If ignoring a cranky member was a real option the chair could have ignored Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) when he rose to vacate Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

And then the chair would need to rule on the validity of Santos’ question, and he would presumably have to rule in the affirmative. Again, if this question was legitimate for Gaetz to ask then it would be fine for Santos to do the same.

Presumably, all Republicans present if asked would be against tossing out Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA).

But what about Democrats? Would they vote with Santos to stick it to Speaker Mike Johnson, vote no to save Johnson, or vote present and let the GOP thwart Santos. Obviously, they would feel some incentive to dump Johnson, seeing as the liberal base has been decrying Johnson as an election-denier and Christian nationalist.

Indeed, having made Johnson a bogeyman, Democrats have little reason to vote against vacating the chair, since their most fervid primary voters and donors would scream. If a GOP conservative stalwart can draw a primary challenger for refusing to oust McCarthy, then a Democratic legislator can earn a primary challenge for helping Johnson survive.

That leaves the option for Democrats to stay away from the chamber or to vote present, which would keep Santos from dumping the Speaker and delaying his expulsion. But would they? Certainly, they did not choose that course of action when their bete noire Rep. Gaetz drew his long knife for McCarthy. Instead, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) decided it was advantageous to vote to dump the gentleman from California.

The prospect of George Santos temporarily shutting down the House to save his own hide is a troubling one. Thankfully, after further thought and consultation with a maven of House legislative procedure, I found peace. No, Rep. Santos can’t torch the House.

Sure, he can try, but it would fail.

Here’s why.

First, “House Rule IX states that under most circumstances, a Member must give notice of his or her intention to raise a question of the privileges of the House. Within two legislative days of giving such notice, the Member will be recognized to offer the resolution,” as the Congressional Research Service notes. Rep. Santos has made no such notification.

Second, a new privileged motion to expel Santos already has been introduced, and the Speaker may treat it as first in line.

Third, even if Santos had informed the House of his intention before the chair of the Ethics Committee gave notice, the Speaker does not have to consider them chronologically.

Fourth, so long as the House GOP can get enough of their members to show up and vote to table the motion or to vote against vacating, Santos’ effort would be thwarted.

Thus, if Santos pulled this stunt he nonetheless would be voted out before action could occur on MTV.

Which is a relief. The House and the country do not need another Speaker deposed. There is too much important work to do.

But the possibility that this scenario could have arisen should spur the House GOP to change the MTV rule. That any aggrieved GOP member —say someone retiring because he is sick of the dysfunction or a legislator who gets primaried— can bring down the House is a huge and needless vulnerability. The bar should be higher for a motion that disrupts the continuity of government.

Santos has said he would hold a press event after Thanksgiving. He will not be able to vacate the chair to stave off expulsion, but his farewell probably will be anything but demure.

Read More

Candace Asher

Singer/songwriter Candace Asher

Presenting 'This Country Tis of Thee'

As we approach another presidential election, less than 120 days away, uncivil, dysfunctional behaviors continue to divide the nation. Each side blaming the other is never going to unite us.

As the rancor and divide between Americans increases, we need to stop focusing on our differences. The Fulcrum underscores the imperative that we find the common bonds of our humanity — those can, do and must bind us together.

There are many examples in the American Songbook that brought folks together in previous times of great strife and discord, including “Imagine,” “Heal the World,” “Love Can Build a Bridge,” “The Great Divide” and, of course, “We Are the World.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has put us on a path to ruin, writes Jamison.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Preventing the decline and fall of the American republic

Jamison is a retired attorney.

The Supreme Court has jettisoned the time-honored principle that no one is above the law. In its recent ruling in Trump v. United States, the court determined that a president of the United States who solicits and receives from a wealthy indicted financier a bribe of $500 million in return for a pardon cannot be criminally prosecuted for bribery. The pardon power, command of the armed forces, and apparently “overseeing international diplomacy” are, according to the court, “core” powers of the president which can be exercised in violation of the criminal laws without fear of criminal liability.

This is a fire alarm ringing in the night. Here’s why.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donald Trump and J.D. Vance

Vice presidential candidate J.D. Vance, standing next to former President Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, said President Biden's campaign rhetoric "led directly to President Trump's attempted assassination."

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Assassination attempt will fuel political extremism

Khalid is a physician, geostrategic analyst and freelance writer.

President Joe Biden’s initial response to the attack on Donald Trump, calling it “sick” and reaching out to his stricken adversary to express support, was commendable. Statements from other prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as notable Republicans like former President George W. Bush and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, echoed this sentiment of unity and concern.

In contrast, the response from some on the right — engaging in finger-pointing and blaming Democrats for their heated rhetoric — proved less productive. Vice presidential candidate J.D. Vance, for instance, asserted that Biden's campaign rhetoric "led directly to President Trump's attempted assassination," seemingly in reaction to recent comments from Biden suggesting, "It’s time to put Trump in a bullseye." This divisive rhetoric only exacerbates the political tension that already grips the nation. Instead of fostering unity, such accusations deepen the partisan divide.

Keep ReadingShow less