Looking for Votes, McCarthy Might Have to Look Past Santos’ Serial Fabrications

Rep.-elect George Santos, R-New York, speaks at the annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, last month. (AP Photo/John Locher)

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg News/TNS) — U.S. Rep.-elect George Santos’ serial fabrications about his life story sets up a key test for Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s struggling to win next week’s vote for House speaker.

McCarthy has little margin for error in his quest as a handful of Republicans seek to block his elevation to the top post in the House. Congressional leaders in the past have asked for ethics inquiries when issues of credibility have emerged, but McCarthy hasn’t indicated he would seek an Ethics Committee ruling.

In recent interviews, Santos, a Republican, admitted he made up job stints at big banks, college degrees and property ownership after The New York Times revealed the facts last week.

“My sins here are embellishing my resume. I’m sorry,” he told the New York Post.

James Gardner, a law professor at the University at Buffalo, said Santos could face legal trouble if he lied on federal campaign paperwork. Gardner said Santos could also face ethics trouble in Congress, but that largely depends on the appetite for discipline from McCarthy and House Republicans.

McCarthy’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

“Expulsion is a political mechanism, but on the other hand it’s meant to be a vehicle for enforcing ethical standards,” Gardner said. “So what will be the politics of it if Republicans have an extremely narrow majority and this guy is a part of that narrow majority?”

A handful of House Republicans led by Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs have so far opposed McCarthy’s bid for speaker, so every vote could be crucial — first to elect the speaker and later to win tough votes on legislation on the floor.

Rep. John Katko, a New York Republican who is leaving Congress, told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday that Santos may now face investigations including for possible campaign finance violations.

“The thing that’s remarkable to me is how did this person not think that this misinformation would get exposed at some point,” Katko said. “It’s very serious and something that I don’t think we’re going to hear the end of for quite a while.”

Santos has also been accused of misrepresenting his religion. “I never claimed to be Jewish,” Santos told the Post. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”

Republican Jewish Coalition chief executive officer Matt Brooks said in a statement that Santos will no longer be welcome at RJC events: “He deceived us and misrepresented his heritage.”

Several Democratic House members have demanded Santos resign or be expelled, though any House sanction would require the backing of Republicans since they won the majority control of the chamber.

Rep.-elect Dan Goldman, a former federal prosecutor and a Democrat, has also called for investigations into Santos’ campaign finances and financial disclosures.

“He didn’t graduate college, didn’t work on Wall Street or in private equity, doesn’t own property, and isn’t Jewish — all of which he asserted in order to dupe the voters in Queens and Nassau County,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

In a WABC radio interview, Santos said a lot of people overstate their resumes.

“I’m not a fraud, I’m not a criminal who defrauded the entire country and made up this fictitional character and ran for Congress,” he said.

Santos said this week he worked with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup while a vice president at LinkBridge Investors but earlier said he worked for the banks.

He told the Post this controversy would “not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good.”

In a July interview with Bloomberg News, Santos said his Wall Street roles were “nothing super ooh-la-la” but included dealing with “billions and billions on spreadsheets.”

“I just did basic asset management. Citigroup was in the beginning of my career and Goldman Sachs,” he said. “I’ve always conducted myself honorably as an individual.”

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