There’s almost no chance that downstate New York Congressman-elect George Santos will resign before he’s sworn in today, even though he clearly should.
Despite his demonstrated lies about practically everything in his background, including his work history, education and Jewish heritage; despite questions about the source of his wealth, his campaign finances, his former marriage and some strange issue with Brazil, he’s not suddenly going to become repentant and give up his lucrative and powerful new gig.
And certainly, members of the Republican leadership in Congress haven’t demonstrated the courage to do anything about him, such as pressure him to resign, bring him up on ethics charges, threaten not to put him on committees or sanction him any way.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy needs every vote he can today to become Speaker of the House, including Santos’. So he’s staying out of it.
And local Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, the fourth most powerful Republican in the House, has been unusually silent when it comes to Santos’ admitted lies and the legal questions. No surprise there. She understands her role in the GOP power structure. (She also might not want to remind people that she endorsed him.)
And for the most part, most other Republicans in the state have kept out of it, sticking their heads in the sand hoping the kerfuffle just fades away once Santos takes office.
They’ve all decided that the best way to deal with this mess is to pretend it doesn’t exist and hope that voters will lose interest. They’re counting on the premise that speaking against him now will do them more harm than good.
But that may not be true.
First, there’s a chance this won’t go away, even after he’s seated.
Sure, it’s Santos’ First Amendment right to lie on his resume, even to con voters into voting for him. He’s safe on that count.
But federal and state authorities, including a Republican district attorney, are looking into his financial background and other potential legal questions. If his legal troubles force him to resign in the future and if a special election is held to fill his seat, how likely is it that voters in his Long Island district will support another Republican after they’d been conned by the candidate and the establishment once already?
Doing damage control now could help Republicans hold the seat with a credible candidate should Santos be forced out or when the seat opens again in two years. But if they let this play out, they won’t likely get a second chance.
Allowing Santos to be seated and to serve conveys a message to voters that Republicans don’t respect them, that the party will continue to support candidates who lie to voters, and that the party will do anything for power.
They might get away with it now. But it very well could come back to bite them in the future.
Is this guy really worth the risk?