In a significant disciplinary action, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure Representative Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat from New York, for his involvement in triggering a fire alarm earlier in the year. The resolution to censure Bowman passed with a vote of 214 to 191, primarily along party lines. However, three Democrats – Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington, Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, and Jahana Hayes of Connecticut – joined Republicans in supporting the censure. Additionally, five members of the House Ethics Committee opted to vote “present” rather than for or against the measure.
The incident occurred on September 30 during a critical legislative session focused on preventing a government shutdown. Amid intense negotiations over a funding extension proposed by the GOP, chaos ensued in the Cannon House Office Building as a fire alarm was activated, leading to an evacuation. Subsequent investigations, including video footage and eyewitness accounts, identified Bowman, a member of the progressive “Squad” and a former educator, as the individual responsible for pulling the alarm, though no actual emergency was present.
Bowman, who contested the notion that his actions were intended to delay the vote, explained that he was in a hurry to cast his vote and mistakenly believed activating the alarm would open a door. He later accepted responsibility for his actions, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge and agreeing to pay a $1,000 fine – the maximum penalty for the offense.
The motion for censure, introduced by Republican Representative Lisa McLain of Michigan, was designated as “privileged,” necessitating a response from the House within two legislative days. Efforts by Democrats to prevent the censure from reaching the House floor were unsuccessful, with a vote of 216 to 201 against, and the top Democrat on the ethics committee, Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, abstaining by voting “present.”
The censure of Bowman has elicited criticism from some Democrats, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Jeffries expressed frustration over the focus on the fire alarm incident, arguing that it detracted from addressing pressing issues such as the economy, inflation, affordable housing, cost reduction, and the ongoing gun violence crisis in the United States.