House Censures Jamaal Bowman for False Fire Alarm Charge – Freedom Voice


The Republican-led House on Thursday formally rebuked Representative Jamaal Bowman, Democrat of New York, for setting off a false 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, passed 214 to 191, largely along party lines, with five members voting “present.”

After the vote, Mr. Bowman stood in the well of the House floor to be officially reprimanded as the censure was read aloud.

Mr. Bowman was caught on video setting off a false fire alarm on Sept. 30 as Democrats were stalling for time to review a Republican-written stopgap spending bill unveiled just moments before a vote. The false alarm prompted an evacuation of the building and contributed to the mayhem that day 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, and 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. I regret this and sincerely apologize for any confusion this caused,” Mr. Bowman said in the previous statement. “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.”

The Capitol Police investigated the incident and shared their evidence with prosecutors upon the inquiry’s conclusion. 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 on 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,” said Representative Carlos Gimenez, Republican of Florida and a former firefighter. “If it was a simple mistake, I wouldn’t be here. But it wasn’t a simple mistake.”

Three Democrats — Representatives Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut and Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez of Washington — crossed party lines to support the censure.

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 himself was expelled. Mr. Santos’s resolution died when he was ousted in an overwhelming bipartisan vote.

Once rare, censure proposals, which amount to public reprimands just one 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 on Wednesday.

“This is a profoundly stupid resolution,” Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, said 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 alone, the Republican-controlled House has censured two members: Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, for his role in investigating former President Donald J. Trump, and Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, for her embrace of the pro-Palestine 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.”)

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