A freshly ousted George Santos had a parting message for reporters as he exited the Capitol Friday morning.
"I no longer have to answer a single question," Santos told the assembled media, noting he was no longer a member of Congress.
Santos, who is facing federal charges for election fraud and campaign finance violations, may have appeared less encumbered following his dramatic exit, but he left a GOP conference in upheaval. Rank-and-file House Republicans were reportedly exasperated over their leadership's botched handling of the fateful vote, according to Politico.
Instead of leading on the matter, Speaker Mike Johnson and his team declined to whip the vote count or push a position, framing it as a vote of conscience. That non-position backfired, with the Republican conference splitting nearly in half on Santos' ejection and voting 105 in support to 112 against it. Democrats tipped the balance to seal Santos’ fate.
Just before the vote Friday morning, the speaker came out against expelling Santos. Johnson's last-minute maneuvering was a lose-lose situation, exposing his inability to bring the weight of the conference with him while enraging his colleagues on both sides of the debate.
More moderate-minded anti-Santos Republicans blasted GOP leadership for stooping toward the lowest common denominator.
“Had leadership had its way, we would have reset the bar on standards of conduct at a level that we would live to regret," Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas told Politico. "I am thankful that there were enough thoughtful members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, that recognize that there was only one course of action here.”
Republican members of the House Ethics Committee, which leadership directed to investigate Santos' conduct, felt abandoned after they found "sufficient evidence" of criminality to support Santos' ejection.
"We were tasked to do this. We came out with a report. … If this was not the standard to remove someone, why even have an Ethics Committee?” wondered Rep. Andrew Garbarino of New York, who voted for expulsion.
The pro-MAGA faithful, on the other hand, were enraged that any Republican would stoop so low as to hold one of their own to a higher standard.
"The swamp won this battle," declared Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana, who also defended Johnson's handling of the vote.
But some MAGA media influencers like Mike Cernovich ripped Johnson.
"Told y'all what you'd get from the new Speaker. Exactly nothing," Cernovich tweeted.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia called the vote "Shameful!!!"
Despite her rage, Greened managed to get something right.
"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," Greene tweeted.
Correct! Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio is vacating his seat next year for a new job that begins in mid-March, whittling Republicans' House majority to just two seats until a special election can be held to fill it.
All in all, it was another stellar week of House Republicans coming together to make a real impact on the lives of everyday Americans.
Can't imagine why the favorability ratings of GOP members in battleground districts continue to crater.