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Santos Steps Down From House Panels    02/01 06:11

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican Rep. George Santos of New York announced 
Tuesday he is temporarily stepping down from his two congressional committees, 
a move that comes amid a host of ethics issues and a day after he met with 
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

   Santos has faced numerous calls for his resignation and is facing multiple 
investigations by prosecutors over his personal and campaign finances and lies 
about his resume and family background.

   Santos was assigned to two fairly low-profile panels, the House Committee on 
Small Business and to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. 
Still, his arrival has left GOP leadership frequently answering questions about 
the congressman rather than about their priorities for the coming months.

   In a prepared statement, Santos said he wanted to focus on serving his 
constituents "without distraction."

   "I want to personally thank Speaker McCarthy for meeting with me to discuss 
the matter and allowing me to take time to properly clear my name before 
returning to my committees," Santos said. "To my constituents, I remain 
committed to serving the district, and delivering results for both New York's 
Third Congressional District and for the American people."

   Before issuing the statement, Santos addressed Republican lawmakers in a 
weekly closed-door meeting they have when in Washington. Rep. Tom Cole, 
R-Okla., said the decision was well-received from the GOP conference. "I think 
it was the appropriate thing to do and I was proud of him for getting up and 
doing this," Cole said.

   McCarthy met with Santos on Monday night but did not disclose their 
conversation.

   "You'll see," McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol.

   The questions surrounding Santos go beyond his misrepresentations to voters 
to include whether his congressional campaign followed the law in its reporting 
to the Federal Election Commission. There have been lingering questions about 
irregularities in his campaign committee's financial reports and the source of 
Santos' wealth.

   If Santos' campaign is found to have knowingly and willfully made any 
"materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation" on 
its paperwork, it could potentially face criminal charges, the FEC said in a 
letter to the campaign last week.

   Republicans described the decision by Santos to temporarily step down from 
the two House panels as voluntary. Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, the chairman 
of the House Committee on Small Business, said he was surprised.

   "The bottom line is that he's chosen to be off committees until his 
situation gets handled at a level that he's comfortable with," Williams said.

   Democrats have been highly critical of Santos as well as McCarthy for his 
efforts to oust three Democratic lawmakers from committees, while at the same 
time backing committee assignments for Santos, who has lied so thoroughly to 
his constituents about his background.

   "The hypocrisy just grabs you by the throat," said Rep. Adam Schiff, 
D-Calif. "This is a Republican speaker who is seating a human fraud, George 
Santos, on committees, a serial fabricator about every part of his existence."

   McCarthy blocked Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., from being 
re-appointed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, though 
they will be able to serve on other committees. He's also committed to removing 
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from serving on the House Committee on Foreign 
Affairs, though such a move would come to the full House for a vote, where 
undoubtedly Democrats would renew questions about the propriety of allowing 
Santos to sit on committees as their members are being removed.

   Late Tuesday, House Republicans put in motion a process toward ousting Omar 
from the Foreign Affairs Committee, once she is formally seated on the panel 
for the new Congress. A vote by Republicans on a resolution to remove Omar from 
the committee could come as soon as Wednesday.

   McCarthy has little margin for error if he chooses to pursue her expulsion 
for remarks McCarthy has described as antisemitic regarding Israel. Omar has 
apologized, and said in a CNN interview Sunday she "might have used words at 
the time that I didn't understand were trafficking in antisemitism."

   Shortly after Omar arrived in Congress in 2019, the House approved a 
resolution condemning antisemitism and other forms of bigotry -- without 
mentioning her by name -- after she made remarks that critics said accused 
Israel supporters of having dual allegiances.

   At least two Republicans had said they won't vote for Omar's removal from 
the foreign affairs panel. They said Democrats were in the wrong for removing 
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., from their 
committees two years ago. And Republicans were making a similar mistake when it 
came to Omar.

   "It's just wrong," said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. "Let's stop ruining this 
place. Let's make it better."

   But McCarthy appeared to be winning over some GOP skeptics. Rep. Victoria 
Spartz, R-Ind., said previously "two wrongs do not make a right" when it comes 
to ousting Omar. She issued a statement Tuesday reversing course and stating 
she would support a removal resolution after McCarthy expressed his willingness 
to add due process provisions.

   "I think setting a precedent of allowing an appeal process for the Speaker's 
and majority-party removal decisions is particularly important to 
freedom-loving legislators who usually are on the receiving end of issues like 
this," Spartz said.

 
 
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