DC Republicans play George Santos ‘waiting game’ as LI GOP backs away

Zach Williams

December 29, 2022

Originally published in New York Post on December 29, 2022.

Top House Republicans are keeping silent about the growing scandal surrounding Long Island and Queens Congressman-elect George Santos — in the hope he lasts long enough to take his seat and help propel Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the speakership next week, The Post has learned.

“I know for a fact DC wants him sworn in and voting on leadership,” a New York GOPer with knowledge of the situation said Thursday. “Multiple chiefs [of staff] have verbalized that’s the waiting game they’re in on now. Hoping nothing criminal pops in next four days.”

Santos announced he would back McCarthy (R-Calif.) to become House speaker when the 118th Congress convenes Jan. 3. Soon after, on Dec. 19, the New York Times reported that the 34-year-old had lied on the campaign trail about key biographical details like graduating from college and leading a tax-exempt nonprofit.

On Monday, Santos told The Post in an exclusive interview that he had indeed misled the voters, casting it as “embellishing my resume.”

McCarthy will lead a conference of 222 Republicans and needs 218 votes from the full House to become speaker. With every Democrat expected to oppose him, McCarthy can only afford four Republican defections.

McCarthy has not yet spoken publicly about Santos, who is being probed by Nassau County DA Anne Donnelly and the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office — with the latter investigation reportedly focusing on his murky finances.

“Republicans all over the state are being pressed on Santos’ lies,” the source added. “Fact is, many of those Republicans literally don’t know the successful businessman Santos, or the working class Santos, or the fraud Santos. But it’s their burden to carry now.”

While Santos has at least one friend in Washington — far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — he’s become increasingly radioactive in his Long Island-based home district.

“I don’t know what party would endorse him as a candidate,” Nassau County GOP Chair Joseph Cairo told The Post Thursday.

“This Republican Committee will not support George Santos in 2024.”

“I think it’s clear that George Santos has emotional issues, and I think he needs to address those issues with a health care professional,” County Executive Bruce Blakeman told CNN Wednesday.

“Because what he did was not normal, and you know, while I was very angry with him when he first announced that those were lies, the fact of the matter is I feel sad for him now, and I think he needs help,” Blakeman added. “And I think he needs to address those emotional issues because as I said, a normal person wouldn’t do that.”

Another soon-to-be Long Island GOP congressman, Nick LaLota, has called for the House Ethics Committee to look into Santos, opening up another potential avenue for sanction.

Santos has claimed he somehow made millions selling used luxury goods in recent years, and even lent his campaign $700,000 — without disclosing any business that would easily account for such wealth.

That loan, which Santos made while claiming a $750,000 annual salary on financial disclosure forms, is likely to draw close scrutiny from prosecutors.

“The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the 3rd District must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress,” Donnelly said. “No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”

Santos did not respond to requests for comment Thursday, though he has said in recent days he still plans on serving the full two-year term he won in November over Democrat Robert Zimmerman, which helped Republicans clinch a slim majority in the House.

Nassau Democrats kept up the pressure Thursday with a rally reiterating demands that Santos step down.

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Nassau) said Democrats and the media had flagged problems with Santos ahead of the election — but Republicans supported him anyway in pursuit of flipping the district held by retiring Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) of Nassau County.

“The question about exactly who George Santos is, is not a new one, but they were brushed aside and minimized by local Republicans desperate to flip this congressional seat at any cost,” she said. “Our community has been victimized and we demand accountability.”

There is no mechanism to exclude Santos from Congress unless he is found to have violated the requirements for representatives listed in Article I of the Constitution — which states that a potential lawmaker must be at least 25 years old, a US citizen for at least seven years, and a resident of the state they represent.

“They [Republicans] are stuck with him and smartly easing away,” political consultant Hank Sheinkopf told The Post Thursday. “Why? They want to hold the seat. To lose it would make Chairman Cairo look weak and cause a Nassau County Democrat resurgence.”