By Haley Talbot, Clare Foran and Kristin Wilson, CNN
Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California has put forward a resolution to expel indicted Rep. George Santos in the wake of a damning House Ethics Committee investigation into the New York Republican.
The resolution from Garcia is privileged, which will require GOP leadership to take up the matter within two legislative days, though it could potentially be pre-empted if leadership calls up another expulsion resolution first. GOP Rep. Anthony D’Esposito of New York later Tuesday called up a separate privileged resolution to expel Santos. That resolution had been introduced by House Ethics Chairman Michael Guest, a Republican from Mississippi, before Thanksgiving.
Santos has survived previous attempts to oust him from the House, but there is growing momentum for this latest effort. Following the ethics investigation, a number of Republicans who had previously not backed expulsion indicated that they would now vote in favor.
It’s still not yet clear though whether there will be enough votes to expel Santos, though the congressman said Tuesday that he expects the effort to pass. Expulsion is exceedingly rare and requires a two-thirds majority vote in the House to succeed.
Santos has remained defiant in the face of a potential expulsion vote this week, saying if his fellow members of Congress “want to send me home, if they think this was a fair process, if they think this is how it should be done, and if they’re confident that this is a constitutional way of doing it, God bless their hearts.”
“If this building, if this city put in the effort to fixing our country the same way that they put on expelling me, we’d be in a better place,” Santos told reporters Tuesday. “But this place is littered in political theater and the American people are the ones paying the price.”
He later doubled down in remarks on the House floor, saying, “To set the record straight and put this in the record: I will not be resigning.”
The renewed push to expel Santos presents a leadership test for House Speaker Mike Johnson.
The Louisiana Republican spoke with Santos Tuesday evening and asked him to consider resignation as one of his potential options, according to GOP Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma – a clear bid to head off a potentially tough expulsion vote as Key House Republicans remain divided over whether to expel Santos.
“It’s our understanding that the speaker and George have had conversations, up until recently, even an hour ago, about the right thing, possibly, for him to do is to examine the position and resign,” Hern told reporters, leaving a meeting in Johnson’s office. “He said that would be certainly an option that would prevent a lot of people from having to take some very tough votes.”
While the speaker did not explicitly tell Santos to step down, according to Hern, he did encourage Santos to “thoughtfully consider what would be best for the institution,” according to GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, another member who was in the speaker’s office Tuesday evening.
CNN has reached out to the speaker’s office for comment.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota said earlier Tuesday that Johnson has not yet decided how he will handle efforts to expel Santos.
Emmer dismissed the effort from Garcia to force their hand by offering his own privileged resolution to get rid of Santos, saying they don’t care what Democrats do. He also insisted they will not whip the vote if it comes to the floor.
Following the release of the ethics report, a spokesman for the speaker said the report had “very troubling findings” and that Johnson urged lawmakers, including Santos, “to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is addressed further.”
In its report, the Ethics Committee said it uncovered additional “uncharged and unlawful conduct” by Santos that go beyond the criminal allegations already pending against him, and would immediately refer the allegations to the Justice Department for further investigation.
The committee concluded that Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”
Santos announced that he would not seek reelection following the release of the committee’s report, though denounced the investigation, calling it a “biased report.”
Separately, Santos has also pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports.
In early November, a Republican-led effort to expel Santos failed. A number of lawmakers had expressed concern over the prospect of expelling a member facing an as-yet unfinished legal battle and absent a criminal conviction. Ahead of the vote, Santos defended his right to “the presumption of innocence.”
In May, the House voted to refer a Democrat-led resolution to expel Santos to the Ethics Committee.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Annie Grayer contributed to this report.
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