Home » House on Track to Censure Jamaal Bowman for False Fire Alarm
Democratic Featured incident News

House on Track to Censure Jamaal Bowman for False Fire Alarm

The House appeared on track Thursday to formally rebuke Representative Jamaal Bowman, Democrat of New York, for setting off a fire alarm in a House office building in September, the latest in a series of partisan reprisals using a once-rare form of congressional punishment.

The censure resolution, which was introduced by Representative Lisa McClain, Republican of Michigan, survived a vote on Wednesday, with 216 Republicans voting to keep it alive while 201 Democrats voted to put it aside. One Democrat, Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, voted present.

Mr. Bowman was caught on video setting off a fire alarm on Sept. 30 as Democrats were stalling for time to review a Republican stopgap spending bill unveiled just moments before a vote. The false alarm prompted an evacuation of the building and contributed to the mayhem as Congress rushed to stave off a government shutdown set to begin that night.

Mr. Bowman pleaded guilty to a single false fire alarm charge and agreed to pay the maximum fine of $1,000 after prosecutors in Washington charged him in October.

“While the House was working tirelessly to avert a government shutdown, Representative Bowman was working nefariously to prevent a vote,” Ms. McClain said in a statement. “It is reprehensible that a member of Congress would go to such lengths to prevent House Republicans from bringing forth a vote to keep the government operating and Americans receiving their paychecks. Especially from a former schoolteacher, who without a doubt understands the function and severity of pulling a fire alarm.”

Mr. Bowman said in a statement at the time, and reiterated on the House floor on Wednesday, that he had not intended to set off the alarm. He said he had done so by accident as he was rushing to the Capitol and the door he typically exited from would not open.

“I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door,” Mr. Bowman said in his previous statement. “I regret this and sincerely apologize for any confusion this caused. But I want to be very clear: This was not me, in any way, trying to delay any vote. It was the exact opposite — I was trying urgently to get to a vote.”

Capitol Police investigated the incident and shared evidence with prosecutors. The House Administration Committee opened its own investigation.

“I immediately took responsibility and accountability for my actions and pled guilty. Immediately,” Mr. Bowman said on the floor Wednesday. “Republicans are here trying to rehash an already litigated matter.”

During the House’s debate on the measure, Republicans rejected Mr. Bowman’s claim that setting off the alarm was an accident and argued that he had to be held accountable.

“He had every opportunity to alert Capitol Police to his mistake, but he chose not to,” Representative Carlos Gimenez, Republican of Florida and a former firefighter, said. “If it was a simple mistake, I wouldn’t be here. But it wasn’t a simple mistake.”

Former Representative George Santos, Republican of New York, had introduced a measure to expel Mr. Bowman from the House for setting off the alarm shortly before he was expelled. Mr. Santos’s resolution expired after he was ousted in an overwhelming bipartisan vote.

Censure resolutions, which if approved amount to public reprimands a step below expulsion, have piled up in the House during this session of Congress. They have become common tools for partisan criticism, in a reflection of the deep polarization gripping the institution.

That trend came up during the House debate on the measure Wednesday.

“This is a profoundly stupid resolution,” said Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, in defense of Mr. Bowman. “Under Republican control, this chamber has become a place where trivial issues get debated passionately, and important ones not at all. Republicans have focused more on censuring people in this Congress than passing bills that help people we represent or improving this country in any way.”

Before June, the House had censured members just 24 times in its history. This year, the Republican-controlled House has censured two members: Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, for his role investigating former President Donald J. Trump, and Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, for her embrace of the pro-Palestinian phrase, “from the river to the sea,” which is regarded by many as a call for the destruction of Israel.

Ms. Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, defended the phrase as “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hate.”

Source: Nytimes