House Republicans want Bowman to be given Jan. 6 treatment over fire alarm
House Republicans want Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who admitted he pulled a Capitol building’s fire alarm hours before a possible government shutdown, to get the same justice as the Jan. 6 protesters got for their 2021 breach of the Capitol to obstruct official business.
Mr. Bowman, New York Democrat, said in a statement Saturday night that he pulled a Cannon House Office Building fire alarm because he was “rushing to make a vote” and thought that activating the alarm would open a nearby door.
“I came to a door that is usually open for votes but today would not open,” he said. “I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door,” he said.
The alarm’s going off led to an evacuation of the building while police checked for a threat.
It was not clear Sunday whether Mr. Bowman’s setting off the alarm specifically delayed Saturday evening’s House vote on a Republican spending bill to keep the government from shutting down. But it theoretically could have and it unquestionably came while other Democrats were using numerous parliamentary tactics to delay a vote.
“I regret this and sincerely apologize for any confusion this caused. But I want to be very clear, this was not me, in any way, trying to delay any vote,” Mr. Bowman said. “It was the exact opposite – I was trying urgently to get to a vote, which I ultimately did.”
Mr. Bowman said he also met with the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police, at their request, and explained what had happened.
“My hope is that no one will make more of this than it was,” he added.
Republican lawmakers are not buying Mr. Bowman’s explanation.
According to a GOP aide, Republicans suspect he was attempting to contribute to the Democrats’ floor-delaying tactics to stop a vote on the GOP-proposed stop-gap spending measure, which had caught them by surprise.
House Democrats, the GOP aide said, wanted the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass its temporary spending bill, which included additional Ukraine funding, before the House GOP leadership could pass its spending measure in the lower chamber.
An investigation is now open into why the fire alarm was pulled, Rep. Bryan Steil, Wisconsin Republican and House Administration Committee chairman, announced on X.
Under D.C. law, people convicted of knowingly or willfully giving a false alarm of fire within the city can be hit with a fine and imprisonment of up to six months.
The U.S. Capitol Police confirmed to The Washington Times that the agency has opened an investigation into “what happened and why.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he believed the Ethics committee should investigate the issue but considered it a serious matter.
He referenced how Jan. 6 protesters were treated after they attempted to stop the Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential-election victory of President Biden.
“I’m going to have a discussion with the Democratic leader about it, but this should not go without punishment. This is an embarrassment. You’re elected to be a member of Congress,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters. “You pulled the fire alarm hours before the government being shut down – trying to dictate the government would shut down?”
Rep. Cory Mills, Florida Republican, suggested Mr. Bowman’s phone be seized, noting that the cell phone of Rep. Scott Perry, Pennsylvania Republican, was seized by the FBI in the fallout of the Jan. 6 riots.
“Perhaps he was trying to coordinate Hakeem Jeffries or leadership and his own side and they were trying to basically delay prep this, but also people like Congressman Scott Perry, get his phone taken wrongfully,” Mr. Mills said Sunday on “Fox and Friends.”
“We need to be able to treat this in the exact same light as what everyone else was being treated. And I think it’s only fair for us to go ahead and start investigating further,” he said.
Other GOP lawmakers called for Mr. Bowman’s arrest, expulsion or censure.
Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas posted on the social-media site X that “I’m hearing Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) was CAUGHT ON CAMERA pulling the fire alarm in a House Office Building to delay the CR vote.”
He added, “IF TRUE: he should be charged with obstructing an official proceeding which is a FELONY. As a former Sheriff, I’d happily slap the cuffs on him,” referencing a felony charge Jan. 6 defendants have faced.
In a subsequent post, Mr. Nehls showed a photo of himself holding handcuffs and asked Mr. Bowman, “Jamaal, are you ready?”
The Department of Justice states that more than 300 defendants have been charged with “corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding, or attempting to do so” related to the Jan. 6 riots.
Other Republican lawmakers made similar remarks.
“Rep. Bowman obstructed an official proceeding by unlawfully pulling a fire alarm,” Rep. Beth Van Duyne of Texas posted on X. “Arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate that miserable insurrectionist.”
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona posted a meme of Mr. Bowman wearing the same horned Viking helmet and red, white and blue face paint as Jacob Chansley – one of the most familiar Jan. 6 defendants.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, defended her fellow squad member and said Republicans were jumping to conclusions.
“I think if you actually see some of the photos of the signs, there’s something to be said about the government about to shut down,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“There’s a vote clock that’s going down. The exits that are normally open in that building were suddenly closed,” she said, going on to condemn GOP lawmakers wanting to punish Mr. Bowman.
“Republican representatives like Nicole Malliotakis and others immediately moved to file motions to censure and expel before there have even been conversations that are finished to see if there were misunderstandings here,” she said.
Ms. Malliotakis, New York Republican, has introduced a measure to expel Mr. Bowman from Congress. This provision requires two-thirds of the chamber to pass and thus has no current chance in the closely-divided House.
Republican Reps. Harriet Hageman of Wyoming and Lisa McClain of Michigan are crafting censure measures against Mr. Bowman. This provision would only require a simple majority to pass.