House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that while he supports Rep. George Santos, the freshman New York congressman would be removed from office if the Ethics Committee finds he violated the law after admitting to manufacturing parts of his background.
McCarthy was pressed at a news conference on why he still supports Santos, who has lied about much of his background and resume, including a false claim that his mother was at the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. .
Asked if he supports Santos because his resignation would hurt the narrow majority of House Republicans, McCarthy responded.
«No. Do you know why I stand with him? Because his constituents voted for him,» McCarthy said. «I don’t have the power simply because if I don’t agree with someone or what they’ve said, I remove them from elected office. ”.
McCarthy added that he will hold Santos «at the same level that I will hold any other person elected to Congress,» having referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee.
«If somehow, when we go through Ethics, he’s broken the law, we’ll remove him, but it’s not my role,» McCarthy said. “I believe in the rule of law. A person is innocent until proven otherwise.
McCarthy then hit out at President Joe Biden for exaggerating his academic record in the past. “And if I were to hold the bar if someone lied, Joe Biden couldn’t be president right now. He told us that he had three degrees, graduated first in his class, numerous times before. So let’s not sensationalize,» the speaker said.
McCarthy reiterated that Santos voters chose him: «He has a responsibility to defend what they voted for, to work and have his voice here, but at any time, if it reaches a legal level, we will address it then.»
Earlier this month, two New York Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Dan Goldman and Ritchie Torres, filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee against Santos for «failing to file timely, accurate, and complete financial disclosure reports.» They requested an investigation into Santos, alleging that he violated the Ethics in Government Law.
Santos also faces federal, state and local investigations.
McCarthy’s latest comments come as Santos won seats on two House committees: Science, Space and Technology, and Small Business. Those appointments came days before McCarthy barred Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee after Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the House Democratic leader, appointed them to the panel.
A growing number of Republican lawmakers have urged Santos to resign after state Republican leaders in New York said he should step aside over numerous lies and fabrications in his biography that he submitted in the 2022 midterm elections.
McCarthy, however, did not join the calls.
“I try to stick to the Constitution. The voters elected him to serve,” McCarthy said earlier this month. “If there is a concern, it has to go through Ethics [Committee]; let him go through it. But right now, voters have a say in the decision. It’s not where people pick and choose based on what someone’s press has. So it will continue to serve.»