Rep. George Santos says he won't serve on House committees while investigations are ongoing

Key Points
  • Embattled Republican Rep. George Santos of New York will not serve on the two House committees to which he was recently assigned until the investigations into his conduct end, his office said.
  • "The congressman is reserving his seats on his assigned committees until he has been properly cleared of both campaign and personal financial investigations," his spokeswoman said.
  • Santos informed Republican lawmakers during a closed-door conference meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier that "he's not accepting the committee assignments until things get cleared up," according to a longtime GOP lawmaker who was in the room.

In this article

U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) returns to his office after telling a Republican party conference that he will recuse himself from House committee assignments on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 31, 2023. 
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Embattled Republican Rep. George Santos will not serve on the two House committees to which he was assigned until a slew of investigations into his campaign and personal finances have concluded, he said in a statement Tuesday.

The freshman lawmaker said he asked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to temporarily recuse him from the committees until he is "cleared" of the probes. "It is important that I primarily focus on serving the constituents of New York's Third Congressional District and providing federal level representation without distraction," Santos said.

Santos informed his Republican colleagues of his decision during a closed-door conference meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier Tuesday, according to a longtime GOP lawmaker who was in the room. This person declined to be named to discuss private conversations.

The move marks one of the first tangible repercussions Santos has faced in the months since he admitted fabricating key details about his biography.

But he insisted that the decision does not mean he will step down. "No, I'm not" considering resigning, Santos told a reporter Tuesday morning as he rushed back to his office.

House GOP leaders have not pressured Santos to resign as they try to govern with a narrow majority. House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York said after the meeting that Santos "voluntarily" removed himself from the panels, but "ultimately voters decide" if he will stay in office.

Santos was appointed earlier this month to posts on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Small Business Committee. The GOP Steering Committee, led by McCarthy, assigned him to those panels over howls of bipartisan criticism against Santos and calls for his resignation.

The 34-year-old lawmaker has faced intensifying scrutiny since shortly after he won his congressional race in the November midterms. A bombshell New York Times investigation in December called into question many of Santos' claims about his personal and professional life, as well as the sources of his campaign funds.

Days before he was sworn in to the 118th Congress, Santos admitted to lying on the campaign trail about his job experience and his college career. He apologized for "embellishing" his resume, though he denied all other wrongdoing.

But Santos is now reportedly under investigation at the local, state, federal and international levels, and he has mostly avoided answering the throngs of reporters barraging him with questions about his many unsubstantiated claims.

Santos has repeatedly vowed to serve out his full two-year term in office, arguing the voters of his Long Island-area district should have the final say on whether he stays or goes. McCarthy, who leads a slim and unruly GOP House majority and has few votes to spare, has echoed Santos' line and defended the decision to give him committee assignments.

That stance clashes with Republican leaders from near Santos' own district, who have denounced the scandal-plagued congressman and urged him to resign.

The voters in Santos' district aren't keen on keeping him around, either, according to a new poll released Tuesday morning.

An overwhelming 78% of registered voters in New York's 3rd Congressional District — including 71% of Republican respondents — say Santos should resign, the survey from Newsday/Siena College found. More than four out of five respondents viewed Santos unfavorably, according to the poll.

Notably, 71% of the respondents said it was wrong for McCarthy to seat Santos on multiple committees.

The pollster surveyed 653 voters from Santos' district between Jan. 23 and last Thursday. The poll has an overall margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

As the pressure against Santos mounts, so have the number of investigations in his orbit.

Most recently, the Federal Election Commission was asked to make a referral into whether Santos' campaign committed a crime when it listed as its treasurer a person who claims he had previously declined to take the job. The FEC had pressed Santos' campaign for more information after learning that it "may have failed to include the true, correct, or complete treasurer information" in a recent campaign filing.

The Department of Justice asked the FEC to pause any action against Santos as it pursues its own criminal probe into the congressman, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Santos also faces a federal ethics probe and an investigation by Nassau County's Republican prosecutor, Anne Donnelly. New York Attorney General Letitia James' office also said it is "looking into" Santos-related issues.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported in early January that Brazilian authorities have revived a years-old fraud case against Santos.

Outside of his potential legal peril, Santos has been pelted with a wide variety of damning allegations, including that he set up a fundraiser for a disabled veteran's ailing dog and then took off with the money.

Santos has denied that reporting.