House Votes to Censure Jamaal Bowman for Pulling Fire Alarm


Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Congressman Jamaal Bowman was censured by the House of Representatives on Thursday, becoming the third Democrat to be officially reprimanded by their legislative peers this year.

The chamber voted 214-191 to censure the Westchester County congressman for pulling a fire alarm in a House building earlier this year. Five members, four Democrats and one Republican, voted “present” on the resolution. Bowman becomes only the 27th member of the House to be censured in its history.

Punchbowl News reports that Bowman was joined by dozens of his fellow Democratic members in the well of the House as his censure was handed down, and he appeared to be consoled by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley.

During debate over the resolution on Wednesday, Bowman spoke on the House floor to condemn the measure against him. “It’s painfully obvious to myself, my colleagues, and the American people that the Republican Party is deeply unserious and unable to legislate. Their censure resolution against me today demonstrates their inability to govern and serve the American people,” he said.

In late September, while Congress was negotiating to prevent a government shutdown, Bowman was seen pulling a fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building, an action captured on surveillance-camera footage. The alarm sounded and prompted the swift evacuation of the building and a reaction from Washington, D.C., emergency responders. The building reopened an hour later.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Bowman and his office said the congressman had mistakenly triggered the alarm by attempting to go through an emergency-exit door. An affidavit from a U.S. Capitol Police officer said security footage showed Bowman attempting to open an emergency exit, then pulling the lever for the fire alarm and walking away. He was reportedly seen trying other doors before exiting the building via a stairwell. Republican backlash to Bowman’s actions was swift, with many calling for the congressman to be punished. Some even invoked the fate of January 6 rioters who had been charged with interrupting an official proceeding, arguing that Bowman deserved similar charges. Bowman pleaded guilty to a false-fire-alarm charge, a misdemeanor, in October. He agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and to issue an apology to the U.S. Capitol Police.

The privileged resolution was introduced on Tuesday by Congresswoman Lisa McClain of Michigan, who wrote on X, “Nobody is above the law, Congressmen included.” Former Congressman George Santos introduced a resolution to expel Bowman last week, attempting to highlight what he saw as differential treatment of Bowman compared with his own. But Santos was ousted from Congress himself before the measure could be voted on.

Censures, which were once particularly rare in the House, have steadily grown more common. Before Congressman Paul Gosar’s censure in 2021 for posting a violent video that appeared to threaten President Joe Biden and Ocasio-Cortez, the prior censure of a House member had been of now-former congressman Charles Rangel in 2010.

The numbers have only increased since Gosar’s censure. Last month, the House voted to censure Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan over her comments about the Israel-Hamas war. In June, Congressman Adam Schiff of California was censured over his actions while serving as House Intelligence Committee chairman during the panel’s investigations of Donald Trump.


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