What’s Up With the House?

Angie Yang '24


The beginning of 2023 has been a rocky start for the House of Representatives, certainly not what the Republicans hoped for as they took the gavel. After November’s midterm elections, the Republicans were able to win a slight House majority; however, the 118th congressional session started with a candidate’s false résumé and a dysfunctional party. 

The question then becomes, what is the House going to look like this session? 

Starting off with the George Santos controversy, the Republican nominee from New York’s District 3 represents parts of northern Long Island and northeast Queens. This past election, he was able to flip the Democratic seat of that district running on values opposing mask mandates and abortion access as well as defending law enforcement. His whole campaign was built on being an embodiment of the American Dream; however, the reality is very different. After news broke out in mid-December that his resume is flooded with lies, a new question emerged: Who is George Santos? Santos claimed to have gone to Horace Mann School, one the most elite schools in the Bronx, but couldn’t finish due to financial problems. Afterward, he said he graduated from Baruch College in 2010; however, both Horace Mann and Baruch College have said that they can’t find him in any of their records. A similar pattern was discovered regarding Santos’ work experience, particularly when he claims to work for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, yet these companies have no record of his employment as well. Citing his philanthropy efforts, Santos claimed that he founded an animal rescue group called Friends of Pets United, which supposedly is a tax-exempt organization, but again, no record of it was found by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). It had only one social media page on a fundraiser it held in 2017 where the beneficiary of the event claimed that Santos charged $50 for entry and never gave any of the funds he promised [1]. 

As can be seen from the above events, Santos’ educational and working history doesn’t line up with what was originally written in his campaign bio. Some deeply personal details he lied about as well are: He has claimed that his grandmother escaped the Holocaust. He has claimed that he himself is Jewish and of Ukrainian heritage. He has claimed that his mother worked in the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, in an interview on WNYC, he said he lost four employees at the tragic 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Once again, these stories didn’t match up. Genealogy records show that his grandparents were born in Brazil and in response to multiple sources stating Santos is actually Catholic, he said “I never claimed to be Jewish, I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’” Immigration documents reveal that Santos’ mother left for Brazil in 1999 and was unable to return to the US until 2003 because her green card was stolen. Sources have also revealed that none of the places where the 49 victims of the Pulse shootings match the various firms that Santos names he worked at in his biography [1].  

Beyond that, the truth of his finances is troubling. Originally, Santos claimed that his family collectively owns 13 properties, but no record has been found of these properties. He faced eviction cases in both 2015 and 2017 after failing to pay rent. The current company Santos says he works at is Devolder Organizations, a capital introduction consulting company. However, what’s troubling is there is once again little record and no disclosed clients which can violate three election laws if there are clients. Furthermore, Brazil has reopened a 2008 criminal case against Santos. Charged for stealing a checkbook to make fraudulent purchases, the case was dropped after he didn’t show up for his official court summons and wasn’t found at the address listed  [1].

As the news emerged of his false biography, eyes quickly turned to top Republicans like Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for responses. Initially, he remained silent before saying that it was up to the Ethics Committee and the voters to decide. With a much different response though, other Republicans and Democrats alike have called for his resignation. Santos has admitted to making these “embellishments,” but still refused to give in to this pressure, arguing that the voters elected him and so he’ll serve out his full term.  There is currently an ongoing ethics investigation occurring to determine what’s next and the leader of the Oversight committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) announced that if George Santos broke campaign finance laws he would be removed from Congress [2]. The mentioned finance law is the False Statements Act, which prohibits the omission of material or misrepresentation of personal financial closures done willfully and knowingly [1]. As Comer stated “It’s not up to me or any other member of Congress to determine whether he can be kicked out for lying. Now, if he broke campaign finance laws, then he will be removed from Congress” [2].

As the new year began and Santos entered Capitol Hill, a new controversy took the spotlight: The fight for House Speakership. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) entered the fight with room to only lose 4 votes and still win. On the first ballot, he lost 19. On the third ballot, he lost one more. On the eighth ballot, he lost one more. On the ninth ballot, he lost one more. After hours of negotiating and agreeing to concessions, McCarthy was able to get 214 votes on the thirteenth ballot. On the fourteenth ballot, he needed one more vote until Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) voted present, denying McCarthy his speakership for one more round. Finally, after 4 days of stalemate and fifteen rounds of voting, six of the Republican dissenters voted present, lowering the majority needed to claim speakership [3]. 

Many of the dissenters are part of the Freedom Caucus, known to be the most conservative group in Congress. Strong advocates for a smaller, less involved government, criticize the excessive spending done by the government. Many also wanted more power for members of the House through floor debates and weaken the speakership role [e]. In order to win enough of these votes, McCarthy made some big concessions that would weaken his power. Most notably, he agreed to lower the number of votes to start the process of removing the speaker from five to one. In response to the criticism of government spending, he agreed to cap discretionary spending to the same level it was at the beginning of the Biden Administration in an effort to balance the federal budget. Following the dislike of the $1.65 trillion omnibus bill last month, he agreed to twelve separate appropriations bills. McCarthy also agreed to appoint some of these far-right Freedom Caucus members to the House Rules Committee. News of the concessions has pushed some Republicans to reconsider McCarthy’s speakership if he gave away too many powers. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also criticized the House for giving more power into the hands of the MAGA Republicans [4]. 

These multiple instances provide a glimpse of the complex congressional term ahead. As the government is tested with fabrications and ideological views start to cause a divide within a party, only time will tell what’s to come for our democracy.