About 50 furious constituents of U.S. Rep. George Santos from the 3rd Congressional District chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Santos has got to go,” boarded a bus in Roslyn early on a frigid Tuesday morning bound for Washington.
Many clutched home-made signs with phrases against the embattled congressman like “Scamtos” and “Keep NY3 Ponzi-Free.”
Their goal? Bring their voices directly to the Capitol Hill offices of not only Santos, but his boss, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy through copies of petitions demanding Santos’s removal signed by more than 100,000 people.
The backdrop? President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.
The four-hour, 250-mile trip comes after seven weeks of petitions, calls to the offices of various congressional members, and sent emails demanding Santos resign after just about everything in his biography has been called into question — from school, to work, and even claims of Jewish heritage familial ties as well as his mother being a victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
“I’m hoping that we can put some pressure on the rest of his coworkers to expel him from Congress,” said one of the travelers making the journey this week, Glen Head resident Diana Mueller.
The protesters were barely halfway to Washington when Casey Sabella, a Glen Cove resident and community organizer with Courage for America, announced some breaking news that was met with cheers: Santos was officially facing a House Ethics Committee probe, confirmed by McCarthy himself.
“We’re making a difference, and we’re not even off the bus,” Sabella joked.
Later on, not far from the Capitol building, Jody Kassfinkel called Santos a grifter, reaping the benefits of a congressional salary he doesn’t deserve.
“Nobody trusts him and as a result,” said Kassfinkel, a Great Neck resident and organizer of Concerned Citizens of NY-03, “he is impotent as a member of Congress in his ability to represent us.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman, who represents Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, said he was one of the House members who initially filed a complaint against Santos with the Ethics Committee. McCarthy rebuked the complaints, Goldman added, stating that Santos’s fate should be up to the constituents who voted for him last November.
“We saw the unbelievable and unprecedented amounts of fraud, deception and lies that a single person has brought to what should be the hallowed halls of the Capitol,” Goldman said.
However, the congressman did credit the Speaker’s announcement that day that there would indeed be an ethics probe of Santos.
Once the gathering concluded, Sabella and Kassfinkel led the 50 travelers inside to visit the offices of both Santos and McCarthy.
When they reached Santos’s office, the door opened before Sabella even knocked. The staffer looked shocked and alarmed at the crowd, quickly closing the door again. Moments after, a more senior staffer appeared.
Sabella handed him the petitions, saying voters there and back home were “not OK with Santos’ lies and deceptions.”
The staffer accepted the petitions without comment, closing the door again. The small crowd there chanted “where is George?” which echoed through the hallways outside the congressman’s office.
Sabella didn’t expect Santos to directly engage with the protestors, but she didn’t expect such a cold reception at his office.
“He won’t acknowledge our existence — even if we’re here,” Sabella said.
When the crowd approached McCarthy’s office, Capitol police were already standing outside the door.
This time, Kassfinkel was tasked with delivering the petitions. She held them tightly as she spoke her mind to the senior staffer about the lack of proper representation in Santos’ district. Finally, Kassfinkel handed them over — an exchange she described as brief and one-sided.
“He was desperate for me to hand over the petition so he can close the door and leave,” she said. “But I wouldn’t hand it over until I was done speaking.”
Not long after, the weary travelers loaded the bus for the long trip back to New York, hoping to make good time before nightfall. It was a long day, but Kassfinkel believes the group met their goal of getting the Speaker’s attention, even if there was no face-to-face encounter.
Sabella, too, reflected on many positive experiences. Still, she was frustrated with the lack of communication from Santos.
“I’m proud of the people who came on this trip, and proud of them for speaking their voices and standing up to something so wrong,” Sabella said. “I’m disappointed in George Santos. I’m disappointed that he said he is doing his job and engaging with constituents, and he rejected 50 requests to meet with him today.”
That won’t slow down Sabella. In fact, it energizes her, making it clear she will continue to organize events and plans of action until Santos finally vacates his office.