A crescendo of bipartisan outrage will accompany the swearing in on Tuesday of George Santos, one of the Republican party’s most controversial new Congress members who has admitted large parts of his biography are a fantasy.

The New York politician, caught in lies over his family background, education and work history, is facing calls to step down from several senior figures within his own party before he even sets foot on the floor of the chamber.

Kevin Brady of Texas, formerly the ranking member of the House ways and means committee, told Fox News Sunday that Santos “is certainly going to have to consider resigning”, while Asa Hutchinson, outgoing governor of Arkansas, said on ABC’s This Week that his “unacceptable” falsehoods must be subjected to an ethics committee inquiry.

Yet in a reflection of his importance to would-be speaker Kevin McCarthy’s personal ambitions, the current Republican leadership has remained all but silent on the Santos affair. McCarthy needs every vote he can get from the party’s precariously thin majority to win the gavel, and appears willing to embrace a self-confessed liar to get there.

“Any other job in the world, you’d get fired. Unfortunately, we don’t have that option in Congress,” the Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley told MSNBC, acknowledging there were no formal procedures to deal with the episode, and that it was “probably up to House leadership”.

Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic incoming House minority leader, said Santos was “unfit to serve”, and told reporters he appeared to be “a complete and utter fraud [whose] whole life story is made up”.

The unraveling of Santos’s fantasy world has gathered pace in recent days, following an inquiry by the New York Times last month that first questioned large chunks of the résumé he presented to voters to win a narrow victory for Republicans in a usually reliable Democratic district.

Santos has admitted he lied about having Jewish ancestry, working for at least two Wall Street banks, and about obtaining a degree from a college that said it had no record of his attendance.

Parts of a biography on Santos’s website disappeared last week, including boasts that his mother worked in a senior finance role in New York, and was in the Twin Towers during the 2001 terrorist attacks. Times interviews with those who knew his family say she was a cook who spoke little to no English.

Santos struggled to address many of the claims on Fox News last week in an interview described by the Daily Beast as a train wreck.

But he has not addressed other questions, including the source of a personal fortune he appears to have amassed quickly despite financial problems, including evictions and owing thousands in back rent.

The Times said campaign records showed Santos spent more than $40,000 on air travel alone, a staggering amount that outpaced other congressional candidates and even leading members of Congress.

On Monday, the newspaper published new allegations, including an interview with Santos’s former boyfriend Pedro Vilarva, who said they had an affair in 2015. Santos, according to Vilarva, paid few of their bills, surprised him with tickets to Hawaii that turned out not to exist, and then stole and pawned his cellphone.

“He used to say he would get money from Citigroup, he was an investor,” Vilarva told the Times.

“One day it’s one thing, one day it’s another thing. He never, ever actually went to work.”

The Times said reporters had left messages by voice, text and email for Santos, but he did not respond.

A growing number of lawmakers have expressed disquiet as Santos prepares to take his seat in Congress, including the Kentucky Republican James Comer, the incoming House oversight committee chair.

Comer told Fox News he was “pretty confident” the ethics committee would open an inquiry. “What Santos has done is a disgrace. He’s lied to the voters,” he said.

Democrats are also expected to pursue several avenues against the 34-year-old, including a potential complaint to the federal election commission and what would be a largely symbolic resolution to expel him from Congress.

Federal prosecutors in New York are examining Santos’s background and financial dealings, a person familiar with the matter said last week, and the district attorney’s office in the state’s Nassau county said on Wednesday it was investigating fabrications Santos made while campaigning.

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