Embattled freshman Representative George Santos was given seats on two low-level committees after House Republicans debated where to place the New York congressman, who faces growing legal questions and growing calls for his resignation for widely lying about his resume.
Several GOP sources told CNN that the House Republican Steering Committee, controlled by President Kevin McCarthy and his key allies, has tapped Santos to serve on two House panels: the Committee on Small Business and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. . Santos had privately lobbied GOP leaders to serve on two more high-level committees, one overseeing the financial sector and the other over foreign policy, but top Republicans rejected the proposal as some presidents declined to add him to your panels.
Still, Republican leaders have for now decided to treat Santos like any other member of the House, even as doubts about his past grow and some raise security concerns about allowing him access to confidential briefings.
Rep. Roger Williams, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Small Business Committee for the 118th Congress, defended the decision to appoint Santos to his committee.
“I don’t condone what he said, what he did. I don’t think anyone knows. But that’s not my role. He was elected,” Williams told CNN.
The controversy surrounding Santos presents an early test of McCarthy’s leadership as an orator, creating a distraction as the Republican Party’s new majority tries to implement its agenda. But McCarthy and GOP leaders know full well that if Santos resigned, he would vacate a seat in a district that President Joe Biden won by eight points, giving Democrats a real chance to further squeeze the narrow majority of Republicans in the Chamber.
Despite refusing to call for Santos’ resignation, McCarthy told reporters he didn’t know about Santos embellishing his resume, but “always had some questions about it.” McCarthy said Santos should be subject to a House ethics investigation and that it was up to voters in his district — not lawmakers — to decide his fate.
Watch McCarthy acknowledge the apprehension he had about George Santos’ resume
Other top Republicans also lined up with McCarthy’s position.
Indeed, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise stopped short of calling for Santos’ resignation, saying on Tuesday that he is “answering some very serious questions” and now needs to “focus on the things he promised he would do.” ”.
Scalise added: “It ran on an agenda and needs to move forward – as well as answering questions that have been raised.”
Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican who sits on the Steering Committee that nominates members to their posts, defended the plan to install Santos on a committee.
“In this country you are innocent until proven guilty,” Donalds said. “There have been members whose problems have come up (for) in the past. They were allowed to be on their committees, sit on committees. And then the legal process kicks in and we make the adjustments. So that’s probably what’s going to happen.”
Senior House Republicans have privately acknowledged that there is no easy way to handle the controversy surrounding Santos as they grapple with deciding which commission to assign him. Their concern: If they denied him a spot now, it would set a precedent for other members who are facing intense press scrutiny but haven’t been charged with any crime, two GOP sources said. Instead, they said, Republicans will follow normal GOP conference procedures that would see him thrown out of committees if he is indicted. However, in 2019, then-House Minority Leader McCarthy and his allies on the Steering Committee kicked the then-Reg. Steve King out of its committees after his racist remarks surfaced.
But Republicans know that Santos’ problems could get worse and force them to take tougher action against him.
Santos is already facing a federal investigation led by New York prosecutors who are looking into his finances.
In a separate issue, CNN reported that law enforcement authorities in Brazil will reinstate the fraud charges against Santos. Prosecutors said they will seek a “formal response” from Santos relating to a checkbook stolen in 2008 after police suspended an investigation into him because they could not find it for nearly a decade.
In an interview last month with the New York Post, Santos denied being charged with any crime in Brazil, saying “I am not a criminal here – not here, not in Brazil, not in any jurisdiction in the world. Absolutely not. This did not happened.”
Santos admitted to stealing a checkbook from a man who was with his mother to buy clothes and shoes in 2008, according to documents obtained by CNN.
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