House votes to censure Jamaal Bowman for setting off Capitol fire alarm

The US House of Representatives voted almost exclusively on party lines to censure Rep Jamaal Bowman after he pulled a fire alarm in the US Capitol when there was not an emergency.

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
,Eric Garcia,Katie Hawkinson
Thursday 07 December 2023 20:52 GMT

Related video: CCTV shows Jamaal Bowman pulling fire alarm in Capitol

The House has voted to censure New York Rep Jamaal Bowman for setting off a fire alarm in a US Capitol office building without there being an emergency.

The vote fell almost exclusively on party lines, with 214 members voting to censure Mr Bowman and 191 members voting against it. Three Democrats voted to censure Mr Bowman, including Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, Chris Pappas of New Hampshire and Marie Gluesenkamp-Perez of Washington.

Mr Bowman defended himself in a speech on the House floor on Wednesday evening, saying that the resolution showed how unserious House Republicans are.

“Their censure resolution against me demonstrates their inability to govern and serve the American people,” he said.

Mr Bowman reiterated what he had said in the past: That he was running to vote for the stopgap spending bill to prevent a government shutdown.

Later, Mr Bowman said that he had gone through the proper channels and that the House Ethics Committee elected not to open an investigation into him just weeks after it released its report on disgrace former congressman George Santos.

“This Republican House is unserious and unproductive, and I know that their efforts to target me are a testament to the importance of my voice in pushing back against their disingenuous rhetoric and harmful policies,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to serve the people of New York’s 16th district and the country.”

A member of the coterie of progressive Democrats known as the Squad, Mr Bowman accused Republicans of trying to relitigate a matter that had been settled.

“I immediately took responsibility and accountability for my actions and pled guilty,” Mr Bowman said. “The legal process on this matter has played out. In no way did I obstruct official proceedings, the vote took place and Democrats were able to ensure we avoided a government shutdown.”

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told The Independent the vote was meant to distract from the recent expulsion of former congressman George Santos last week.

“If this was actually genuine, they wouldn’t be digging up events that are months old for them to drag out to distract from the fact that they haven’t funded the government,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said. “They haven’t done a damn thing for everyday working people and they just need you know, something to distract people.”

Meanwhile, Rep Jasmine Crockett, a Texas Democrat, told The Independent the censure vote is “bullshit.”

A censure is a way for the chamber to rebuke a member but it doesn’t lead to a penalty beyond the public reprimand. Mr Bowman is the third lawmaker to be censured since the Republicans took control of the House.

The New York representative was seen on surveillance footage pulling the fire alarm in late September as the House was about to vote on funding the government, prompting an evacuation of the office building within the Capitol complex.

But Mr Bowman said after the vote that he pulled the fire alarm in an attempt to open a door that was locked since the vote occurred on a Saturday when the Capitol is typically closed.

“I was trying to get to a door. I thought the alarm would open the door, and I pulled the fire alarm to open the door by accident,” he said at the time, according to CNN. “I was just trying to get to my vote and the door that’s usually open wasn’t open, it was closed.”

Last month, the House Ethics Committee decided against opening an investigation into Mr Bowman for his actions. In turn, Mr Bowman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine.

Rep Lauren Boebert, a republican from Colorado, voted to censure but told The Independent the vote was unimportant.

“I don’t think it’s important. I think he should be expelled,” Ms Boebert told The Independent. “He pled guilty to a crime.”

The vote would have been the third vote to censure a member of Congress this year.

Earlier this year, House Republicans led by now-former speaker Kevin McCarthy censured Rep Adam Schiff for his actions related to his investigation of former president Donald Trump. Last month, Republicans and 22 Democrats voted to censure Rep Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan and the House’s only Palestinian-American member, for comments about the Israel-Gaza war that they claimed were antisemitic.

Ms Tlaib called Thursday’s censure vote “yet another attempt to silence a person of color in this chamber.”

“They are obsessed with attacking Black and brown members of Congress, but do nothing to help our families thrive,” Ms Tlaib wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “They need to get a grip.”

Rep Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota — and, like Mr Bowman, is a member of the Squad — criticised the vote.

“This whole place is a clown show,” she said. “I mean it’s one of the most ridiculous things to do.”

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