NASHVILLE — Most Tennessee and Georgia Republican U.S. House members, including Reps. Chuck Fleischmann and Marjorie Taylor Greene, voted Friday against expelling GOP Rep. George Santos after an ethics committee report alleged misuse of campaign contributions.
But the bipartisan effort to expel the colorful but controversial New Yorker was successful with a 311-114 vote, with those voting to oust the freshman New York lawmaker including several Tennessee and Georgia Republicans.
A House Ethics Committee investigation found Santos routinely used campaign funds for personal expenses. The expulsion vote met the chamber's two-thirds requirement for ouster.
Two of Tennessee's eight House Republican lawmakers, Reps. Mark Green of Ashland City and John Rose of Cookeville, voted to give Santos the boot, helping make him just the sixth person in U.S. history expelled from the legislative body. Also voting to expel Santos was Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, the nine-member delegation's lone Democrat.
Four Republican congressmen from Georgia also voted to expel Santos.
Among all congressional Republicans, 105 members voted to oust him while 112 voted against doing so.
Greene lashed out at Santos' expulsion in a social media post.
"Republicans refuse to impeach any of the Democrats who are responsible for destroying our country and have so far thrown out a Republican Speaker and now expelled a Republican member," Greene said. "We now have a 3 seat majority and have another Republican resigning soon, and will have a 2 seat majority, as long as every Republican shows up when we are in session."
She added: "Republican voters want us to stop the communist Democrat's agenda and hold Democrats accountable, NOT destroy our majority and do nothing to hold Democrats accountable."
In a statement, Fleischmann's office said he took expulsion "extremely seriously," adding that only five House members had been expelled in the chamber's 234-year history.
"While Rep. Fleischmann is greatly concerned and personally revolted with the allegations against Mr. Santos in the Ethics Committee's report, he does not want to break the precedent established since the inception of the House in 1789 that a Representative should be expelled for either treason against the United States or after being convicted of a crime in a court of law," the statement said. "Congressman Fleischmann believes Mr. Santos deserves his day in court and the due process of law."
Fleischmann's vote against expulsion was "solely to preserve the essential principle of American justice that everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process, and also to preserve the long-held precedents of the institution of the House of Representatives — not to defend or condone any alleged wrongdoing committed by Mr. Santos," the statement said.
Rose said he voted to expel Santos based on the New Yorker's own admissions.
"He admitted that he has knowingly lied to the electorate, telling his constituents blatant falsehoods to get himself elected," Rose said in a statement. "Plus, the House Ethics Committee Report found that he deceived his donors, broke the law and repeatedly made false statements and claims.
"Enough is enough," Rose added. "It's the American people who pay our salaries. During this time of perilous national debt, we need to stop putting taxpayer dollars into the pockets of a troubled man who needs to deal with his very serious problems outside the halls of Congress. An overwhelming majority of House members agreed with me and he has been immediately expelled."
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Sherwood, said in a statement, "My vote today was not on the guilt or innocence of George Santos, nor was it a vote of political expedience. The charges presented for expulsion in this resolution should be rightly adjudicated by the appropriate legal authorities before the House should make a final determination. If found guilty in this matter by those authorities, then expulsion would be warranted.
"As to Congressman Santos' numerous other issues and his political future, that is a matter for the people of New York's Third Congressional District and the New York Republican Party to decide," DesJarlais said. "Citizen voters should determine their representation, and the House of Representatives should always lean toward a final independent judicial determination before other members vote on a matter that removes a duly elected representative."
Also voting against expulsion were Tennessee Republican Reps. Diana Harshbarger, Tim Burchett, Andy Ogles and David Kustoff, a former federal prosecutor.
Efforts to reach a spokesperson for Burchett, an often outspoken Knoxville congressman, were unsuccessful.
Cohen, the Memphis Democrat, saw things differently.
"(The) Santos vote was Congress working in bipartisan fashion to purge the institution of one of the, if not the most, despicable member(s) ever," Cohen said in a social media post. "To the end he was a disgrace who mouthed lies about his actions and the Congress!"
In Georgia, Republicans Rick Allen, Earl "Buddy" Carter, Drew Ferguson and Austin Scott voted to oust Santos. Joining Greene in voting no were Reps. Andrew Clyde, Mike Collins, Barry Loudermilk and Rick McCormick
Four of the state's five Democrats voted to expel Santos: Reps. Lucy McBath, Sanford Bishop, David Scott and Hank Johnson.
Voting no was Rep. Nikema Williams, who is the Georgia Democratic Party chair.
"George Santos is not worthy of serving in the House of Representatives," Williams said in a statement. "He will likely be convicted of the crimes of which he was accused. This is the People's House — and although the House Ethics Committee findings were damning, the people of New York's third congressional district should decide who represents them. I'll always decide on giving power to the voters."