Republicans are playing the blame game after losing a House seat vacated by George Santos

Barbs flew after Democrat Tom Suozzi easily defeated Republican Mazi Pilip on Tuesday.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson joined by Rep. Ronny Jackson and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, center, joined by, from left, Rep. Ronny Jackson and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, departs after meeting with reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
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House Democrats scored a big win Tuesday night after Tom Suozzi won New York’s Third Congressional District special election. He flipped a House seat vacated by disgraced Republican Rep. George Santos, creating an even slimmer GOP majority in the House.

His victory over GOP opponent Mazi Pilip had House Republicans playing the blame game on Wednesday. Here’s a roundup of how they reacted to the loss.

House Speaker downplays Suozzi win, says multiple ‘factors’ came into play

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson downplayed Suozzi’s win to reporters on Wednesday and said Democrats shouldn’t “celebrate too much,” claiming they spent $15 million to win a House seat in a district that Biden won by eight points in 2020.

Johnson claimed Suozzi had a leg up on name recognition because he previously served three terms in Congress, while GOP candidate Mazi Pilip was “relatively unknown in that comparison and had a very short runway.”

The House speaker also told reporters Suozzi “ran like a Republican” on border security. Suozzi held a firm line on the issue and even called on President Biden to temporarily close the U.S.-Mexico border.

Johnson also blamed the snowstorm that barreled through on Tuesday morning, which he said affected voter turnout.

“That is in no way a bellwether of what’s going to happen this fall,” Johnson insisted to reporters.

The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican Party group in charge of electing more of its members to the House, pointed to some of those same factors, saying it was still a close race despite an “uphill battle” for their candidate.

“Republicans still have multiple pathways to grow our majority in November,” NRCC Chairman Richard Hudson, a North Carolina Republican, said in a statement.

Pinning the blame on Pilip, the losing candidate

Former President Donald Trump attacked Mazi Pilip, whom he didn’t endorse, on Truth Social following her loss in the special election.

“Republicans just don’t learn, but maybe she was still a Democrat?” Trump wrote, referring to the fact that Pilip is technically a registered Democrat but was elected to the Nassau County Legislature as a Republican. He went on to call her a “very foolish woman” for not endorsing him and trying to “straddle the fence” on issues.

"She would have easily WON if she understood anything about MODERN DAY politics in America,” Trump wrote.

Republican Rep. Max Miller from Ohio agreed with Trump’s sentiment and told CNN’s Manu Raju on Wednesday, “Absolutely, she should have embraced Trump. The guy is our nominee, maybe not officially, but officially to me and to the majority of Americans in this country.”

Nikki Haley blames Trump

Meanwhile, the camp of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley — Trump’s last remaining rival for the Republican presidential nomination — pointed the finger at Trump for the loss.

“Let’s just say the quiet part out loud. Donald Trump continues to be a huge weight against Republican candidates,” Haley national spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a statement. “Despite the enormous and obvious failings of Joe Biden, we just lost another winnable Republican House seat because voters overwhelmingly reject Donald Trump. Until Republicans wake up, we will continue to lose.”

Some House GOP members are placing the blame on Republicans who gave Santos the boot

Santos was kicked out of the House of Representatives last December in a bipartisan vote following the release of a report from the House Ethics Committee that found there was “substantial evidence” he had violated campaign finance laws.

“It was a big mistake,” Rep. Troy Nehls from Texas told Axios. “Santos was a solid vote for the conservative voice, and we kicked him out.”

And Rep. Mike Collins from Georgia went with a sarcastic tone on X as a way to pin the blame on his fellow Republicans who gave Santos the boot.

Republicans who voted to expel Santos blame loss on his conduct

Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro from New York, who voted to expel Santos, didn’t mince words with reporters on Wednesday. “George Santos was a con man and a crook and shouldn't have been a member of Congress,” Molinaro said. “Perhaps George Santos being honest would have kept one more seat in Congress.”

Fellow Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez told Axios he has “absolutely no regrets” in giving Santos the boot from Congress. “That we have a slimmer majority, well that's just the price you pay.”