Daily Herald opinion: Removing Santos was necessary for the House; now the Senate faces a similar duty

In helping eject George Santos from the U.S. House of Representatives Friday, congressional Republicans weren't necessarily serving their personal or partisan political interests.

Before Friday, Republicans controlled the Lower Chamber by a mere four votes, so they could ill afford to lose even a single member.

But their act did serve the interest of Congress, indeed of the U.S. government as a whole. Tolerating a fraud and national punchline on the order of New York's George Santos only adds weight to the cynical view of politicians as unscrupulous schemers, concerned more about winning than governing.

So, removing Santos was a necessary stand for dignity in the House of Representatives. Now, it's time for the U.S. Senate to make a similar statement in the case of New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez.

There are those who argue that expulsion is an extreme penalty for both Santos and Menendez, who each forcefully deny federal charges against them. Americans are constitutionally considered innocent until proven guilty in court, this argument goes, so the officials should not face punishment without due process. Curiously, some suggest that Santos got a measure of due process in the form of a scathing House Ethics investigation that alleged a raft of misdeeds. Lacking that kind of inquiry, these observers contend, Menendez should only be censured.

The real question is where is that inquiry? Surely, there's no reason such a probe should be delayed.

Consider the evidence and the nature of the federal charges against Menendez. The U.S. Justice Department says he and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for virtually acting as an agent for Egypt in the Senate and agreeing to pressure U.S. government officials "to protect a business monopoly (in Egypt), disrupt a criminal case undertaken by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office ... and disrupt a federal criminal prosecution brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey ..."

The department's indictment says an FBI raid of Menendez' home found nearly half a million dollars in cash "hidden in clothing, closets and a safe," as well as gold bars, home furnishings and a luxury automobile it links to the scheme.

If the Senate needs an Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether Menendez - who, by the way, was "severely admonished" by the Ethics Committee in 2018 after he survived a mistrial on charges of accepting gifts he failed to disclose from a wealthy doctor in exchange for promoting the doctor's interests - discredits the Senate and deserves to be removed, one wonders what is the holdup. Could it be the Democrats' own tenuous hold on control of the Senate?

Menendez and Santos are poster children for an apparent new standard of defense for politicians facing serious charges, whereby the strategy is not to acknowledge one's own corruption but to claim victimhood at the hands of a corrupt system. Sadly, partisan supporters seem only too willing to accept such grievances if it protects their own political interests.

Thankfully, enough Republicans in the House refused to swallow Santos' pathetic outbursts to get him removed from public office. It's time now for Democrats to find an equal measure of self-respect to send Menendez packing.

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