Democrats are having a hard time trying to choose which hill to die on when it comes to censuring George Santos in payback for censuring Adam Schiff. The question for them on it is: should they waste a lot of time and resources and give criminally indicted fraudster Santos more airtime to gain traction with a base? To them, he may not be worth the time and effort to censure. Santos is already a parody, and really isn’t worth the time to go after. He’s not ever going to get reelected, and he will be sitting in jail post-election, so why would anyone really care to mount some serious effort to censure his criminal ass?
House Democrats are facing a tough choice: Is forcing the GOP into perilous votes worth plunging the chamber into a tit-for-tat of symbolic reprimands?
Democrats sense an opportunity to impose political pain on Republicans by teeing up censure votes against Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and George Santos (R-N.Y.). Pushing the formal reprimand is one of the few tools the minority party can use to force the GOP into tough votes.
But when it comes to Greene and Santos, there’s a major risk for Democrats: The GOP could turn it back around — following its recent censure of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and rebuke of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) with a cascade of potentially problematic reprimands for minority party lawmakers.
“I think it’s becoming more of a political game than it is a pursuit of ethics. And that troubles me, and everybody should be troubled by that,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.).
Democrats missed the Wednesday deadline to start the clock on any Greene or Santos censure votes if they wanted to force the issue before the House leaves for its extended August recess. Factoring into their decision were other reprimands the GOP was considering, like one against Jayapal, according to a person familiar with the situation, who was granted anonymity to talk party strategy.
“The resolutions speak for themselves at this point,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, when asked Wednesday about forcing the censure votes.
The Santos censure presents a particular challenge for Democrats, despite the party’s universal condemnation of the indicted New Yorker. Some Democrats insist on voting to expel him from Congress — which the House already rejected — arguing that the symbolic reprimand would only give anti-Santos Republicans a political win with no real action.
“I’m not for the Santos measure. Santos ought to be removed from the Congress of the United States. He lied repeatedly to his constituents on issues that clearly form their judgment,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “And I think the Ethics Committee needs to report on the actions that are recommended forthwith.”
Democrats already tried to force a vote on expelling Santos, which Republicans used to instead call on the House Ethics Committee to conduct an investigation into his alleged misconduct. House rules require that panel to decide soon whether to extend the matter or to release its investigative findings, which some Republicans had said would influence how they approached future votes to punish Santos.
The top Democrat on that Ethics panel, Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), declined to comment on the pending censure measures but said: “I am concerned that the people aren’t recognizing that there’s a process to go through with the Ethics committee that should be followed.”
Republicans had successfully deployed the fast-track censure tactic against Schiff last month, passing a reprimand without the initial blessing of House GOP leadership. Some Democrats see that as the first move in the censure war, and it’s their turn to respond in kind.
“If they want to bring bogus censures against Adam Schiff, then we should bring legitimate censures against somebody who has admitted to almost everything he was accused of,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), referring to Santos.
And Republicans seemingly aren’t done. First-term Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) has introduced a censure resolution against Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus, over remarks calling Israel a “racist state” — words she soon walked back. Republicans already called a House vote expressing support for Israel in response, which the vast majority of Democrats backed.
“We are moving forward and all options are on the table,” Ogles said in a Tuesday statement to POLITICO, arguing that if any Republicans had said the same thing as Jayapal, they would’ve been torn to shreds.
If Ogles moves forward with his measure, Democrats are gearing up to strike back by highlighting the first-term lawmaker’s own controversial background, according to the person familiar with the situation. Jeffries, when asked about the Ogles measure, called him a “complete embarrassment and a total fraud.”
Jayapal said she believed that some Republicans didn’t want the censure of her or other Democrats to move forward because “they certainly know there’s actual stuff to censure from their members — then they’re going to be called out for that.”
Democrats are likely to wait for the blessing of party leadership to trigger the censures against Greene and Santos, stressing they have consulted with leaders on next steps. The lead Democrat on the Santos censure, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), had said he wanted to bring up his resolution before the House left for the August recess unless the Ethics panel released information on its probe, now impossible to do since the Wednesday deadline passed.
Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), who’s leading the Greene censure, was also circumspect on her timeline.
“We’re in communication with the leader’s office and so it remains a possibility,” she said Tuesday evening.
Although six House Republicans have said they would support a Santos censure, more than enough to pass the measure assuming full Democratic support, Democrats don’t have the votes for a Greene censure.
When asked if they would support punishing Greene, most of the anti-Santos Republicans demurred or said they’d oppose it.
“No, I do not,” Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-N.Y.) said. Instead, he argued that “these privileged resolutions are … wasting some of our precious time” and “that we need to focus on the Appropriations work in front of us.”
There’s at least some bipartisan agreement there, with Hoyer also saying he was worried about the overuse of censures. The Maryland Democrat had served as House Majority Leader when Democrats censured Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) for posting an anime video of himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
“If you do it for everything, it cheapens the impact because everybody sort of shrugs their shoulders. But for serious matters, they’re appropriate motions,” he said.