A clutch of Republican House members from New York began pushing on Wednesday to expel one of their own, Representative George Santos, amid mounting federal charges that he defrauded donors and lied about his campaign finances.
The group of six New York freshmen announced plans to swiftly introduce an expulsion resolution to try to capitalize on a spate of new charges against Mr. Santos and a vacuum in House Republican leadership, hoping to whip up enough support to rid themselves and their party of a major political liability ahead of next year’s elections.
“We feel that enough’s enough,” said Representative Anthony D’Esposito, one of the most vulnerable Republican freshman, who represents an adjoining New York district to Mr. Santos’s. “He’s a stain on the institution.”
As the House’s most extreme form of punishment, expulsion requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass, a barrier so high that it has only been cleared five times in the institution’s history — making it far from clear if the move was little more than a messaging exercise by Republicans preparing to defend swing seats next year.
House Republicans repelled an earlier attempt by Democrats to expel Mr. Santos in May after his initial indictment on charges of wire fraud, lying on congressional financial disclosures and stealing public funds.
At the time, Kevin McCarthy, who was still House speaker, argued that Mr. Santos deserved a chance to defend himself in court. Detractors also charged that the then-speaker wanted to keep Mr. Santos’s vote in a narrowly divided House. Although several of the New York Republicans had already called for him to resign by then, Mr. McCarthy convinced all of them — including Mr. D’Esposito — to divert the resolution to the House Ethics Committee for further consideration.
But Mr. D’Esposito and his allies said on Wednesday that two things had since changed, creating a potentially perilous situation for Mr. Santos.
First, Mr. Santos’s campaign treasurer pleaded guilty last week, admitting in court that she conspired with the congressman to report false donations and a fictional $500,000 personal loan to the campaign. Then late Tuesday, authorities added 10 new criminal counts against Mr. Santos, dramatically expanding the case against him.
“I have a feeling this resolution is going to catch fire,” said Representative Nick LaLota, another Long Island Republican pushing for expulsion. “Many people feel like we do.”
Mr. LaLota said that the New York laws had no commitments from party leaders to greenlight an expulsion vote. But their resolution seemed opportunistically timed to coincide with ongoing deliberations over who should replace Mr. McCarthy, who was away last week. If the New Yorkers feel strongly enough, they could use their leverage in the vote for speaker to advance the expulsion push.
“We are acting alone right now,” Mr. LaLota said. “This is a big priority for us, and we’ll see how the folks running for speaker react to what we just did.”
Mr. D’Esposito and Mr. LaLota were joined by Representatives Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Brandon Williams and Nick Langworthy. It was not immediately clear if other New York Republicans would join them, including Representative Elise Stefanik, a member of House leadership.
Mr. Santos has repeatedly refused to resign from office and insists he will run for a second term next year in the face of local Republican opposition. He dismissed the threat of an expulsion vote on Wednesday, asserting it was politically motivated.
“It’s disheartening to witness my colleagues prioritize their campaigns over the essential work that needs to be done,” Mr. Santos said in a lengthy statement that characterized the expulsion push as “more wrenches are being thrown.”
He warned that expelling him before his case goes to trial would set a “dangerous precedent.”
Democrats have aggressively attacked New York Republicans for months for allowing Mr. Santos to stay in office. On Wednesday, they signaled they were not ready to absolve them.
“Aside from being late to the party, we have a pressing question for spineless New York Republicans whose own party has left the House speakerless in the midst of a toothless and gutless resolution,” said Ellie Dougherty, a spokesperson for House Democrats’ campaign arm . “Is your increasing vulnerability the reason that you’ve changed your tune?”
Michael Gold contributed reporting from West Palm Beach, Fla.