Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — A Republican-led resolution to expel embattled Rep. George Santos failed in the House on Wednesday night.

The push to try to oust Santos came from fellow GOP lawmakers in the New York delegation, who argue his past lies and embellishments about his personal history and his various legal entanglements make him unfit for office. Santos maintains his innocence after being indicted on a slew of federal charges.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito on Thursday formally filed the expulsion resolution as privileged — which forced the House to move quickly on Santos’ possible removal. D’Esposito was joined by Reps. Mike Lawler, Nick LaLota, Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams.

The resolution needed a two-thirds majority to succeed, but fell well short. The final vote was 179 to 213 with 19 members voting present.

Santos defended himself on the House floor ahead of the vote, saying his colleagues were “prioritizing petty politics.”

“The loss of the presumption of innocence establishes a dangerous precedent that threatens the very foundation of our legal system, and we risk losing the trust that the American people placed in us by passing judgement without due process,” Santos said. “If we work together, we can protect the integrity of our system and the rights of all citizens.”

“I’m fighting tooth and nail to clear my name in front of the entire world, Mr. Speaker. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m fighting by God’s grace,” he added.

D’Esposito sent a letter from the group to colleagues on Wednesday urging them to back the resolution to force Santos out.

“We strongly urge you to vote in favor of this resolution and encourage you to contact any one of us should you have any doubts about expelling George Santos from this body,” they wrote.

Only five members in U.S. history have been expelled from the House. The last time an expulsion occurred was in 2002, when Ohio Democrat James Traficant was removed after being convicted of 10 felony counts of racketeering, bribery and fraud.

Santos hasn’t been convicted but is charged with 23 counts as prosecutors allege he stole people’s identities, made charges on his campaign donors’ credit cards and lied to federal election officials.

The congressman pleaded not guilty last week and has repeatedly said he won’t step down. His trial is set for 2024.

“I’m strong in my convictions that I can prove my innocence,” he told reporters last month.

Republicans often count on Santos, who represents a swing district on Long Island, to help pass legislation in the House because of the party’s single-digit majority. Newly-elected House Speaker Mike Johnson has signaled concern that expelling him could endanger that.

It wasn’t the first time that Santos has been threatened with an expulsion vote.

Democrats tried to force the House to consider an expulsion resolution back in May, when the first set of charges came down against Santos. Republicans avoided that vote, instead choosing to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee — which released a rare statement Monday saying they’ll announce next steps for their Santos investigation on or before Nov. 17.

The committee’s investigative subcommittee, which has been reviewing allegations involving Santos, said it “has contacted 40 witnesses, reviewed more than 170,000 pages of documents and authorized 37 subpoenas.”

Santos has said he intended to cooperate with the committee.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.