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Fire alarm fracas gets noisier around Rep. Jamaal Bowman

Justin Papp, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — The accusations that sounded in the House over the weekend are only getting louder, as Republicans formally launched an effort to expel Rep. Jamaal Bowman for pulling a fire alarm. Meanwhile, officials cautioned that the alarm investigation is not done, and Bowman managed to set off another controversy over using the word “Nazi.”

Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis on Monday made good on her promise to introduce an expulsion resolution, joined by 12 GOP co-sponsors.

“Someone who is not just a United States member of Congress, but was a former school principal, knows that there are consequences to pulling a false fire alarm,” Malliotakis said of her Democratic colleague and fellow New Yorker. “If this was a school student, he would be suspended or expelled. And this should be taken even more seriously considering that this was done in the halls of government.”

But Capitol Police released a statement Monday stressing that the department “continues to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the fire alarm that resulted in the evacuation of the Cannon House Office Building” at around 12:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Republicans have characterized the incident as a deliberate attempt to delay legislative business on the brink of a shutdown, right as Speaker Kevin McCarthy pushed through a last-minute deal to keep the government funded through Nov. 17. That’s not the case, Bowman insisted, saying in a statement Saturday, “As I was rushing to make a vote, I came to a door that is usually open for votes but today would not open. I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door.”

The police statement appears to support Bowman’s sheepish explanation that he pulled the fire alarm only after failing to open the door. “On security video, a man was seen trying to exit the door in the Cannon Building and then pulling the fire alarm that prompted the evacuation,” the statement reads.


Yet the police statement also casts doubt on how Bowman could have been confused by the signage around the door: “USCP officers had previously placed signs with clear language that explained the door was secured and marked as an emergency exit only.”

Expulsion is an exceedingly rare punishment for members of Congress, seen mostly in the Civil War era. To remove a sitting member requires a two-thirds vote of either chamber. Only 20 members of Congress — 15 in the Senate and five in the House — have ever been expelled. Eighteen were booted for “disloyalty to the union.” And 17 of those 18 were expelled in 1861 or 1862, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The only two lawmakers expelled since the 19th century were James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat convicted of bribery, tax evasion and other charges, and Michael Myers, a Pennsylvania Democrat who was caught in an FBI sting operation accepting bribes from a federal agent. Both men spent years in federal prison.

Joining Malliotakis on her expulsion resolution were co-sponsors Carol Miller, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mike Collins, Austin Scott, Tony Gonzales, Mary Miller, Gary Palmer, Matt Rosendale, Randy Weber, Troy Nehls, Josh Brecheen and Barry Moore.


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