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Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) on Saturday pulled a fire alarm in a House building in the midst of chaotic and tense negotiations on Capitol Hill to avert a government shutdown.
As a result, Republicans are calling for an ethics investigation, potential criminal charges and possibly even a vote to expel him from the House.
Bowman was caught on camera pulling the alarm in the Cannon House Office Building right around the time that Democrats on the House floor were stalling for time in order to review a new GOP proposal for keeping the government open. He caused the building, which is across the street from the Capitol, to be evacuated.
🚨🚨NEW -- Capitol Police are circulating this photo of a man pulling the fire alarm in Cannon. Looks a lot like Jamaal Bowman pic.twitter.com/khzpigSvWI
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) September 30, 2023
Bowman’s chief of staff Sarah Iddrissu posted on social media that it was an accident.
It’s not clear how it could be an accident to pull a fire alarm.
Late Saturday, hours after this happened, Bowman issued a statement apologizing for the confusion he caused and reiterating that he didn’t mean to activate the fire alarm when he pulled the fire alarm:
I want to personally clear up confusion surrounding today’s events. Today, as I was rushing to make a vote, I came to a door that is usually open for votes but today would not open. I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door. 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, which I ultimately did and joined my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to keep our government open. I also met after the vote with the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police, at their request, and explained what had happened. My hope is that no one will make more of this than it was. I am working hard every day, including today, to do my job, to do it well, and deliver for my constituents.
Peace and Love.
But Republicans have already made it clear they’re not going to drop this.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called for a House ethics investigation, saying Bowman’s actions “should not go without punishment.”
House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) said Bowman committed a felony by pulling a fire alarm when there was no emergency, and suggested he did it intentionally to help Democrats amid the shutdown fight.
A Democrat Member of Congress just committed a felony by pulling the fire alarm to try to delay and stop a Congressional vote to fund the government.
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) September 30, 2023
Stefanik’s claim doesn’t make much sense, though. It’s not clear how Bowman pulling a fire alarm in a building across the street from the Capitol would have any effect on a House vote. Shortly after the incident, he joined virtually all Democrats in supporting the short-term government funding.
Meanwhile, Paul Starks, a spokesman for the Capitol Police, said the department has launched an investigation into what happened and why.
“Today at 12:05 p.m., a fire alarm was activated on the 2nd floor of the Cannon House Office Building. The building was evacuated while USCP officers checked the building. The building was reopened after it was determined that there was not a threat. An investigation into what happened and why continues,” Starks said in a statement.
It is a criminal misdemeanor in D.C. to “willfully or knowingly” falsely pull a fire alarm. It is punishable by a fine or imprisonment up to six months, or both.
Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), the chair of the House Administration Committee, is looking into what happened, too.
Rep Jamaal Bowman pulled a fire alarm in Cannon this morning. An investigation into why it was pulled is underway. - Chairman Bryan Steil
— House Admin. Committee GOP (@HouseAdmin) September 30, 2023
A number of Republicans have other ideas.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) is introducing a resolution to expel Bowman from Congress entirely.
“This is the United States Congress, not a New York City high school,” she wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “This action warrants expulsion & I’m introducing a resolution to do just that.”
This is the United States Congress, not a New York City high school. This action warrants expulsion & I’m introducing a resolution to do just that. https://t.co/rfnLDzFHmK
— Office of Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (@RepMalliotakis) September 30, 2023
In related news, Stefanik, McClain, Malliotakis and other Republicans calling for harsh punishments for Bowman for pulling a fire alarm have either endorsed or been supportive of Donald Trump ― the twice-impeached former president currently facing 91 felony counts ― in his bid to become president in 2024.
They also serve alongside Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who is currently facing a 13-count indictment.
Republicans have not called for censuring or expelling Santos.