"Unless they find serious criminal behavior or corruption, lying on your resume is simply not a high enough bar to expel a member. Let the voters toss Santos out."
U.S. Rep.-elect George Santos, R-New York, sits in the chamber Tuesday during opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Credit: Andrew Harnik / AP

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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.

Ethan: I want to say something controversial.

Phil: My morning ritual continues. I wake up, grab a coffee, and look to see what you have said to irritate everyone. Happy New Year!

Ethan: I think U.S. Rep.-elect George Santos should be allowed to take his seat in Congress and serve a full term.

Phil: Didn’t see that hook coming. I counted you as a member of the Democratic chorus calling for his head.

Ethan: To be clear, I think he should resign in disgrace for what he did. Blatantly lying to the voters about his academic credentials, his criminal record and even his ethnicity is beyond the pale. And if he won’t resign, I think the House Ethics Committee should open an investigation immediately. And when done, they should make their findings fully public so that Santos feels the shame of his actions and then resigns. And if he doesn’t then resign, he should have to face the voters in 2024 and hopefully they will throw him out for good. But in all of these scenarios, the power to vacate his seat remains in his conscience or the voters’ ballots, where it should.

Phil: Candidly, that is more demeaning than Congress just saying “thanks, but no thanks” and sending him home after he is sworn in.

Ethan: It is, you’re right. But Congress sending him home sets a precedent that would be a bridge too far. Unless they find serious criminal behavior or corruption, lying on your resume is simply not a high enough bar to expel a member. Let the voters toss Santos out.

Phil: I agree an ethics investigation should be opened. Let the process begin as we start a new session of Congress. Can I now say something controversial?

Ethan: It feels like deja vu all over again.

Phil: What Santos did is similar to what many other politicians have done, albeit, I will concede, supersized. When U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal lied about serving in Vietnam, I was just as angry. When it became clear that President Joe Biden lied about his academic credentials, getting arrested in South Africa, and not knowing anything about his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings, I also felt angry. And when U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren fabricated being Native American? Same feeling. 

Ethan: I’m throwing the false-equivalency flag. Blumenthal, an actual veteran, was guilty of being unclear about his service, having said multiple other times that he never served in Vietnam. Biden, an actual college graduate, merely claimed he graduated higher in his class than he did and said “arrested” when he should have said “detained.” Warren, who actually does have Native American ancestry, made it too significant. One or two embellishments about your life are a far cry from completely making up your life the way Santos did.

Phil: What we have come to, I hope, is an awakening that candidates will be vetted more closely than before. The press and other special interest groups must be more diligent in matching resumes with reality.

Ethan: It is astonishing to me that no major media outlets picked up on this prior to the election. And what a black mark on the Democratic Party in New York for failing to find this stuff.

Phil: And perhaps even more surprising is that his actual opponent apparently didn’t do any fact-checking on Santos. “Campaigns 101” is to have someone check the validity of your opponents words.

Ethan: My prediction is that once Santos gets sworn in, assuming Republicans are ever able to pick a speaker, he will resign and a special election will be called.

Phil: That would certainly be best for all of us.