Rep. Jamaal Bowman censured after notorious fire alarm incident
Washington DC - A Democratic congressman was censured by the House of Representatives on Thursday after deliberately setting off a fire alarm at the Capitol complex that forced the evacuation of an office building ahead of a crucial vote.
Jamaal Bowman had already admitted the misdemeanor in DC Superior Court in October, where he agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and write an apology to police in return for the charges being withdrawn in three months.
Three Democrats joined Republicans to pass the censure, which forced the New York congressman to stand in the well of the House while he was admonished in front of colleagues.
Bowman (47) said he was rushing from his office to make the September 30 vote on a funding bill aimed at averting a government shutdown and pulled the alarm in an attempt to open a door he couldn't get through.
That caused the Cannon House office block near the main Capitol building to be evacuated for an hour. Republicans claim that the former school principal, who was captured on camera, was seeking to stall the vote.
"While the House was working tirelessly to avert a government shutdown, Representative Bowman was working nefariously to prevent a vote," said Michigan congresswoman Lisa McClain, who introduced the resolution.
"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."
Rep. Bowman admitted responsibility for pulling alarm
Bowman, a combative progressive who is unafraid to have public fights with his opponents in the halls of Congress, has become a favorite sparring partner for Republicans.
He said in a statement at the time of his court appearance he was grateful that police "agreed I did not obstruct nor intend to obstruct any House vote or proceedings."
"I am responsible for activating a fire alarm; I will be paying the fine issued and look forward to these charges being ultimately dropped," he said. The House approved the 45-day stopgap funding bill – with a yes vote from Bowman – shortly after the drama came to an end.
Hakeem Jeffries, the leader of the House Democrats, stood by the congressman and slammed "extreme Republicans" at a news conference for "burying their heads in the sand with respect to unlawful or unacceptable conduct by their own members."
Cover photo: Anna Moneymaker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP