WASHINGTON – Republican New York Representative George Santos resigned from his seats on the House committee Tuesday morning as pressure mounts for him to resign from Congress.
But Santos, a freshman who has defied criticism and pledged to serve his two-year term despite calls for his removal, has indicated that withdrawing from committees could be a temporary move and that he will return to his positions once its legal and ethical reviews will be resolved.
Santos “voluntarily” stepped aside, Rep. Elise Stefanik, a fellow New York Republican and GOP House conference chair, said during a news conference with GOP House leaders Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill.
His resignations from the House Small Business and Science, Space and Technology committees come a day after he had a meeting with chairman Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that Santos stepping down was “an appropriate decision.”
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It’s a decision that has confused some Democrats, analysts and academics.
“It strikes me as an unusual step as someone who has been so adamant about staying in office, basically dismissing his inventions as embellishments and basically staying the course,” said Gregory Wawro, a professor of political science at Columbia University.
Democratic House Speaker Pete Aguilar said at a news conference on Democratic leadership on Tuesday that he was “impressed by the chaos, confusion and dysfunction in the Republican conference.”
“They defended by putting him on committees and now they’re announcing he won’t be on committees,” he said. “I just don’t know what the game of the day is.”
Why did Republican George Santos resign from committees?
Santos is facing increased legal scrutiny over his campaign finances, a House Ethics complaint and numerous calls for his resignation, including from within his own party.
Some of that pressure was extending to McCarthy and other House Republican leaders, who have seated Santos on committees but are trying to galvanize votes to oust Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs committee.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise said Tuesday morning that Republicans would not oppose her nomination, but would move to vote her off the committee. He may serve on other committees, but not on foreign affairs, he said.
Santos told a reporter Tuesday that Omar’s situation impacted his decision to temporarily step down and that he didn’t want to distract himself from the opportunity to remove her.
“He doesn’t have a lot of levers to pull to take the focus off him,” said Casey Burgat, director of the legislative affairs program at George Washington University. “Without fully resigning from Congress… the pressure will continue to build.”
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Candy Woodall is a congressional reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.
This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: Republican George Santos Resigns from House Committee Seats