House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been fielding a great deal of criticism, particularly from the left, for allowing embattled GOP Rep. George Santos of New York to get committee assignments while pulling California Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell off the Intelligence Committee. As Julio explained Wednesday morning, McCarthy made clear the distinction – Santos' assignments, unlike Swalwell and Schiff—are not on the Intelligence Committee, where lawmakers are routinely shown classified material. The House Republican Steering Committee recommended that the Republican serve on the House Small Business Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Despite Santos' lies on his résumé as well as allegations he defrauded a disabled veteran out of money for his dog's health treatment, which he denies, and his reported connections to an alleged Ponzi scheme, among other issues, McCarthy has not joined calls for Santos to resign, saying that "his constituents voted for him."
But on Tuesday, the House Speaker indicated where he would have to draw a line—if an investigation by the House Ethics Committee finds he violated the law.
"If for some way when we go through Ethics, and he has broken the law, then we will remove him," McCarthy told reporters. "The American public in his district voted for him. He has a responsibility to uphold what they voted for, to work and have their voice here, but at any time, if it rises to a legal level, we will deal with it then."
Short of that, however, McCarthy said, "I do not have the power, simply because I disagree with somebody on what they have said, that I will remove them from elected office."
Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres (N.Y.) and Daniel Goldman (N.Y.) 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 has come under intense scrutiny over his finances amid questions that he may have violated campaign finance laws.
It is unclear, however, if the Ethics Committee is looking into the complaint. McCarthy on Monday appointed Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) to serve as chairman of the panel, but he has not yet named other members to the group. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) nominated five Democrats to the committee earlier this month.
The Ethics Committee is known for saying little publicly about its investigations. Santos is also under investigation by prosecutors in New York, and he is the focus of a case in Brazil. (The Hill)
Earlier this month, Santos said he'd only step down if the "142,000 voters who voted for me" asked him to.