House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday declined to call for Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) to resign over fabrications about his résumé and questions about his finances even as New York Republicans raised the pressure on the embattled first-term lawmaker.
“I try to stick by the Constitution. The voters elected him to serve. If there is a concern, and he has to go through the Ethics, let him move through that,” McCarthy told reporters on Wednesday.
“He will continue to serve,” McCarthy said of Santos.
McCarthy’s comments mark his most substantive statements to date about Santos, weeks after the congressman admitted to misrepresenting his background.
Asked about Santos admitting to fabricating parts of his resume, McCarthy said, “So did a lot of people here in the Senate and others.”
That deflection echoed Santos pointing to President Biden and other Democrats when asked about the fabrications.
But Santos’s fabrications about going to college, working at major financial institutions and having employees killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting, misleading claims of Jewish heritage, and major questions about his sharp increase in reported personal wealth that he used to finance his campaign put him in a class of his own.
“It’s the voters who made that decision. He has to answer to the voters and the voters to make another decision in two years,” McCarthy said.
“He is going to have to build the trust here and he’s going to have the opportunity to try to do that,” McCarthy said.
It has been typical in the past for members of Congress to step down only after they have been convicted of a crime. While both local and federal authorities in the U.S. are reportedly investigating Santos, no charges have been filed against him.
“What are the charges against him?” McCarthy said. “In America today, you’re innocent till proven guilty. So just because somebody doesn’t like the press you have, it’s not me that can oversay what the voters say the voters say.”
Brazilian authorities, however, are reportedly reviving a case against Santos relating to a checkbook he allegedly stole in 2008. Santos has denied being charged with check fraud in Brazil.
“If there is something that rises to the occasion that he did something wrong, then we’ll deal with that at that time,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said earlier on Wednesday that Santos would not be assigned to the Appropriations, Ways and Means, Financial Services, and Energy and Commerce committees, but he has not ruled out Santos sitting on other committees.
It would take a two-thirds vote of the House to expel Santos from his seat.
Mychael Schnell contributed.