Congressman Pulled Fire Alarm Amid Capitol Hill Scramble

Democrat Jamaal Bowman says it was an accident, but he may be in hot water
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2023 6:33 AM CDT
Congressman Pulled Fire Alarm Amid Capitol Hill Scramble
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., in a file photo.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Among the many surprising things that happened Saturday in Washington in the scramble to avert a government shutdown, this may be the strangest: A Democratic congressman pulled a fire alarm in the Capitol office building. Jamaal Bowman of New York swears it was an accident, but he faces an ethics probe, possible expulsion, and maybe even criminal charges, reports Punchbowl News. Brown pulled the alarm as Democrats were trying to a delay a vote on a bill just proposed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, so they would have time to read it and figure out whether to support it, per the New York Times. (They eventually backed it.) The Cannon House Office Building was evacuated with alarms blaring.

In a statement, Brown says he was rushing to the Capitol to cast his vote and didn't deliberately pull the alarm to stall things.

  • "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," he said, per NBC News. "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."

Republicans, however, were moving quickly to punish him. GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, also of New York, said she would introduce a motion to expel Bowman from the House. "This is the United States Congress, not a New York City high school," she tweeted. "This action warrants expulsion & I'm introducing a resolution to do just that," she wrote. McCarthy said he wanted the House Ethics Committee to investigate, and he compared Bowman to Jan. 6 rioters. "When you think about how other people were treated when they come in and wanted to change the course of what was happening in the building," he said. Democratic Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (also of New York) said he would not comment until he had seen video of the alarm pull. (More Jamaal Bowman stories.)

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