Since the Republican Party retook control of the House of Representatives in January following last year’s midterm elections, the party has faced unprecedented challenges, including the removal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the speakership after less than a year and the expulsion last week of former Rep. George Santos (R-NY). The internal difficulties are a testament to a year of discord and a call for a reassessment of strategies leading into next year’s election season.
McCarthy’s removal from the House’s top post was the first time in American history the GOP had voted to oust its own speaker while Congress was in session. The intense internal battle surrounding his removal and the subsequent election of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) spoke to the strife and internecine stress plaguing the GOP.
The House of Representatives has made history this year by voting to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and by expelling Rep. George Santos.
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— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) December 2, 2023
Then, the expulsion of Santos was the first such removal of a member before conviction of a criminal offense since the Civil War era. Santos is currently facing indictments for several fraud and election law violations related to the maintenance and use of campaign funds.
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) expressed the sentiment of many of the GOP members who voted with all the Democratic members to remove Santos from office. The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote by the full House membership to expel a member. Lawler said, “Is it messy? Yeah, sure. But when you’re actually governing in a democratic republic, it can be messy.”
The House Ethics Committee was central to Santos’s expulsion, as its investigation revealed the Long Island lawmaker’s complex pattern of wrongdoing. The committee demanded that the House take affirmative steps to require accountability to the public.
Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) said, “People were frustrated with how leadership handled this entire thing. If this was not the standard to remove someone, why even have an Ethics Committee?”
Several House Republicans have expressed vastly different opinions about the comparison between McCarthy and Santos. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY) said, “One was a mistake and one was righteous and necessary.”
Speaking about his vote to remove Santos, Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) said: “This was a vote of the conscience. Truth and morals don’t change based on the margin we have for the majority.”
As the GOP has faced this year’s internal struggles, they have impacted the actual business of governing and representing the interests of the American people. As the party looks forward to 2024, the need for unity and consistent messaging has never been greater.