When the GOP gained control of the House of Representatives after last year’s election, party leaders put forth an agenda that included more robust investigations of the Biden administration. Although that probe might still result in an impeachment inquiry, the progress has been largely overshadowed by infighting among members of the majority.
Those Republican disagreements were on full display when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was ousted from the position in response to a motion brought by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in October.
When eight Republican lawmakers voted alongside Democrats to strip McCarthy of the title, it marked the first such expulsion in U.S. history and plunged the majority into a subsequent dispute regarding who would replace him as speaker.
Less than two months later, the House became the scene of another historic vote when 105 Republicans joined the overwhelming majority of Democrats to boot controversial Rep. George Santos (R-NY) from the chamber. It was just the sixth time a member had been voted out — and the first time since the Civil War that a lawmaker was targeted despite not having been convicted of a crime.
The move sparked widespread debate among conservatives on social media, with many suggesting that Santos should not have been expelled without similar efforts to remove other elected officials embroiled in their own scandals.
The House voted to expel George Santos from Congress.
Now that our system operates under “guilty until proven innocent,”
should we expel every Congressman that has lied, engaged in insider training, misused congressional funds, & accepted bribes from foreign countries?
— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) December 1, 2023
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), who was instrumental in pushing for the vote to remove Santos, reacted to the backlash by acknowledging the chaotic nature of the situation but suggesting that it is a necessary aspect of a healthy government.
“Is it messy?” he asked. “Yeah, sure. But when you’re actually governing in a democratic republic, it can be messy.”
Another New York Republican who voted to remove Santos sought to draw a distinction between that measure and the previous effort to oust McCarthy.
“One was a mistake and one was righteous and necessary,” claimed Rep. Nick Lalota (R-NY). “What we did today was righteous and necessary if we are going to claim the mantle of being the party of accountability.”
Gaetz expressed precisely the opposite opinion. After leading the charge against McCarthy, he was one of three lawmakers who addressed the House ahead of the vote urging members to vote against expelling Santos.
In reference to a damning House Ethics Committee report that paved the way for the motion, Gaetz called it an “incredible violation of precedent” that “will do grave damage to this institution for many years to come, because now there is no requirement of any conviction.”