Voices: Why Kevin McCarthy can’t quit George Santos

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Another day, another George Santos headline. Several of them, actually.

On Tuesday evening, Patch.comreported that Mr Santos allegedly stole $3,000 meant to pay for a surgery to remove a tumor that a veteran’s a service dog had developed.

Mr Santos reportedly went by the name Anthony DeVolder at the time and the dog ultimately wound up dying. To boot, Richard Osthoff, the dog’s owner, couldn’t afford euthanasia or cremation and Mr Santos reportedly used the money raised on GoFundMe for the dog, named Sapphire, “for other dogs.”

Mr Santos called the allegations “Fake” in a statement to Semafor.

All of this comes as the House Republican Steering Committee assigned the freshman congressman to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and the House Small Business Committee. And on Wednesday evening, The Jewish Daily Forward and The Washington Post both reported that Mr Santos’s mother was not in New York City on 9/11 after he had previously said she had perished in the terrorist attacks. That claim, of course, contradicts the fact his mother died of cancer in 2016.

All of this should mean that House Republican leadership would want to drum him out. As Semafor’s Benjy Sarlin tweeted on Wednesday, this should serve as a “tipping point” since Democrats saying “Kevin McCarthy sent a dog-abusing swindler of disabled veterans to look after your small business” would drag down more than just Mr Santos (this is also possibly why many New York Republicans have started to say he needs to go).

But Mr McCarthy – let alone the rest of GOP leadership – likely can’t afford to quit Mr Santos for one simple reason – math.

Had Mr Santos hailed from a redder district, it might be easier to give him the boot. But Mr Santos is one of 18 Republicans who represent a district that President Joe Biden won in 2022. Mr Biden won New York’s 3rd District by eight points and a Democrat previously held the seat. Mr Santos mostly won the seat by accident: Governor Kathy Hochul dramatically underperformed in Long Island in November’s election and Republicans won four seats in the area.

Mr Santos mostly reaped the benefits of Democratic incompetence in the region, and they would likely not be caught napping if the seat were to open up.

If Mr McCarthy were to force Mr Santos’ resignation, it would trigger a special election and Democrats in Long Island would likely be mobilized to retake the district. The New York Times reported that despite his district’s swingy nature, he hasn’t acted like a moderate who needs to court undecided voters but has rather palled around with members of the House Freedom Caucus and appeared on Steve Bannon’s podcast.

Furthermore, 2024 is a presidential election year, when Mr Santos will likely face stiff opposition if he seeks re-election and could easily get washed away. By then, he’d be somebody else’s problem.

Republicans in the region have also denounced him. But that’s too big of a risk to take for Mr McCarthy given he only has a four-seat majority after he just narrowly won the gavel.