Rep. George Santos has said he will not resign despite revelations that he lied about his past. We are VERIFYing how an elected member of the House of Representatives can be removed.
On January 10, New York State and local Republican leaders called on US House Representative George Santos (RN.Y.) to resign immediately. Santos has been accused of lying about his resume and family heritage and is facing multiple federal investigations into his personal and campaign finances.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the House Ethics Committee was investigating any claims made against Santos, but did not say whether he would encourage newly elected Santos to resign.
After his alleged falsifications became known, some people online called for him to be removed from office. Online petitions were circulated calling for its removal; one has over 33,000 signatures.
Can an incumbent member of Congress be removed from office?
Yes, an incumbent member of Congress can be removed from office.
WHAT WE FOUND
Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution states that a two-thirds majority in the House is required to expel one of its members. The rules for removing a member in the Senate are the same.
A two-thirds elimination is the only way to remove an incumbent member of either house of Congress, unless he resigns or dies.
The constitution does not provide for a mechanism to recall a member of the US Congress by voters or anyone else, and to date, no member has been recalled, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). This is different from state and local elected officials, where there are rules and procedures for recalling officials such as governors.
Only 20 members of Congress were expelled – 18 of them for treason – and this happened mostly during the Civil War. The other two exceptions were members who were convicted on corruption charges, the most recent being in 2002, according to the House of Representatives archives.
CRS advises that there are other disciplinary actions Congress may impose on a member for alleged misconduct, not including expulsion. The following disciplinary actions may be taken in both the House of Representatives and the Senate:
- Rebuke: A censure is a formal expression of disapproval, requiring a formal majority vote on a resolution condemning a member’s behavior.
- Reprimand: Another expression of disapproval, but a lesser punishment than censure. The reprimand also requires a formal majority vote in the House of Representatives.
- Letter of Rebuke: Issued by the House Ethics Committee; a letter indicating that the member has committed a misdemeanor but has not reached the level of formal punishment.
- If the alleged misconduct was financial, the member could be forced to pay monetary restitution.
- Loss of seniority, which may include forfeiting committee seats.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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