The new leader of Rep. George Santos has been given seats on two subcommittees after House Republicans debated where to place the New York congressman, who is facing legal trouble and mounting pressure to resign for allegedly lying about his resume.
Multiple GOP sources told CNN that the House Republican Steering Committee, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and top aides, nominated Santos to serve on two House committees: the Small Business Committee and the Science, Environment, and Technology Committee . Santos has privately asked GOP leaders to serve on two other top committees, one on the economy and one on the economy, but Republican officials have rejected that offer while other chairmen have refused to add him to their panels.
However, Republican leaders have so far decided to treat Santos like any other member of the House, despite questions raised in the past and when some have raised concerns about allowing him to speak briefly.
Rep. Roger Williams, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Small Business Committee for the 118th Congress, defended the decision to name Santos to his committee.
“I don’t agree with what he said, what he did. I don’t think anyone does. But that’s not my responsibility. He was elected,” Williams told CNN.
The controversy surrounding Santos marks the first attempt at McCarthy’s presidency as speaker, prompting many GOP members to try to get the word out. But Mr. McCarthy and GOP leaders are well aware that if Santos resigns, he will leave the seat in the state that President Joe Biden carried by eight points, which gives the Democrats an additional shot at strengthening the majority of the Republican House of the Republicans.
Although he refused to call for Santos to resign, McCarthy told reporters that he was not aware of Santos decorating his resume but “always has a few questions about it.” McCarthy said Santos should be investigated by a House inquiry and that it is up to voters in his district — not lawmakers — to decide what happens next.
Watch McCarthy admit his fears about George Santos’ resume
Other top Republicans also agreed with McCarthy’s position.
Indeed, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise stopped short of calling for Santos to resign, saying on Tuesday he was “answering some very tough questions” and now needed to “focus on what he promised to do.”
Scalise added: “They ran their agenda and they have to follow through – and answer the questions that were asked.”
Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican who sits on the Oversight Committee that appoints members to their positions, defended the plan to put Santos on committees.
“In this country you are innocent until proven guilty,” Donalds said. “There are members that the news came (about) in the past. They are allowed to be in their committees, to be in the committees. And then the legislative process is working and we change. So maybe that’s what will happen.”
Republican officials have privately acknowledged that there is no easy way out of the wrangling with Santos as he faces the choice of which commission to give him. Their concern: If they deny him a seat here, it could set an example for other members who are under intense media scrutiny, but have not been charged, two GOP sources said. Instead, he said, Republicans will follow the GOP convention’s usual process of removing him from the committees if they impeach him. However in 2019, House Minority Leader McCarthy and his allies in the Oversight Committee introduced Rep. Steve King resigned from his committees after his racist comments came to light.
But Republicans know that Santos’ problems could escalate and force them to take stronger action.
Santos already faces a federal investigation led by prosecutors in New York who are looking into his finances.
In another story, CNN reported that Brazilian law enforcement officials have reinstated fraud charges against Santos. Prosecutors said they would seek “answers” from Santos about the stolen check in 2008, after police closed the investigation after missing him for nearly a decade.
In an interview last month with the New York Post, Santos denied that he was facing any charges in Brazil, saying: “I am not a criminal here – not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world. Absolutely not. That never happened.”
Santos admitted to stealing his father’s checkbook from his mother to buy clothes and shoes in 2008, according to documents obtained by CNN.