Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
U.S. Representative George Santos (R-NY) leaves his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 31, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
CNN  — 

Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Tuesday that he wants the House Ethics Committee to “move rapidly” on its investigation of Rep. George Santos after Democrats pushed to force a vote to expel the embattled congressman.

McCarthy’s announcement came shortly after Democrats tried to put House Republicans on the spot by forcing the chamber to vote on the expulsion resolution later this week. Instead, McCarthy plans to refer the resolution to the ethics panel, which would require a majority of the House to approve. That would give Republicans a chance to sidestep weighing in directly on whether Santos should be expelled from Congress. But McCarthy indicated that the full House could act to punish or even expel Santos depending on what the committee finds.

“I think we can look at this very quickly and come to a conclusion on what George Santos did and did not do through ethics, a safe bipartisan committee,” McCarthy told reporters. He added, “I would like the Ethics Committee to move rapidly on this.”

Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader, plans to oppose McCarthy’s effort to refer the Santos expulsion resolution to the Ethics Committee, according to a Democratic aide.

Democrats want to vote now on expulsion and not wait until the Ethics Committee acts.

The House could consider taking up the vote to refer the matter to the Ethics Committee as soon as Wednesday evening, according to GOP House Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s office.

The Ethics Committee announced in March it was officially moving forward with a probe into Santos. The committee said it voted to set up an investigative subcommittee with authority to look into a number issues, including whether Santos may have engaged in unlawful activity related to his 2022 congressional campaign.

Separately, Santos was recently indicted and has pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports.

A House Democrat introduced the expulsion resolution Tuesday afternoon. The motion offered by freshman Democratic congressman Robert Garcia is privileged, so House GOP have until Thursday to schedule the vote.

02:37 - Source: CNN
George Santos speaks outside of courthouse after pleading not guilty

If they were to go straight to a vote on the underlying resolution, then it would require a vote of two-thirds of the House to succeed. McCarthy has previously signaled he wouldn’t favor this route until the Ethics Committee finishes its probe.

The one-page resolution reads: “Resolved, That, pursuant to Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 of the Constitution of the United States, Representative George Santos, be, and he hereby is, expelled 4 from the House of Representatives.”

In a statement, Garcia said that Santos “needs to be expelled by the House,” adding, “news that federal prosecutors are filing 13 criminal charges against George Santos should have been the final straw for Kevin McCarthy, but he refuses to act.”

CNN has reached out to Santos’ office to request comment on the resolution.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Devan Cole contributed.