House censures Jamaal Bowman for pulling a congressional fire alarm

The Republican congressman pleaded guilty to setting off the alarm, although he denied that his intention was to hinder the vote on a spending bill promoted by Republicans to avoid a shutdown.

Democrat Jamaal Bowman was censured by his colleagues in the House of Representatives. Three Democrats and 211 Republicans voted to censure the squad member for setting off a fire alarm before a spending bill promoted by then-speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted on.

The measure is merely symbolic. Bowman had to stand in front of the House while Representative Mike Johnson read the charges against him.

"One would think representative Bowman (former academy principal) would be able to hold himself to the same standards as he held his students to," Representative Lisa McClain, who introduced the motion against the Democrat, said before the vote. The representative described Bowman's behavior as criminal, "plain and simple," and claimed that Bowman purposefully set off the fire alarm to delay the vote to avert a government shutdown.

McClain also called out the Democratic Party for not punishing a representative who admitted to committing a crime. She said it was "hypocritical" of them especially considering that the Democrats did join the Republicans to expel George Santos.

Missouri Representative Mark Alford claimed that censuring Bowman "is not trivial ... is not stupid," in response to Democrats who, in Bowman's defense, claimed that the process was a distraction and a waste of time. He also said the issue is "not personal, not partisan." He recalled that the New York representative had pleaded guilty in court and stated that not punishing him for his conduct would send the message that congressmen can violate the law with impunity.

Bowman pleaded guilty in October, as part of a deal with Washington, D.C. Deputy Attorney General Peter Saba. The congressman promised to pay $1,000, serve three months on probation and write a letter asking for forgiveness from the Capitol police.

Bowman was one of three Democrats who was censured this year. Adam Schiff was censured for "his position as chairman of the Intelligence Committee to lie to the American people about Russian collusion," and Rashida Tlaib was censured for "promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel."

A historic year

In the last 100 years, nine representatives - including Bowman - have been censured. There has been a total of 28 since the first censure in 1832, against William Stanbery for insulting Speaker Andrew Stevenson.

This year House members used this mechanism to express their disapproval of other representatives' conduct. With three censures, it shares the top spot with 1870, when Benjamin Whittemore, John T. DeWeese and John T. DeWeese were censured for selling appointments to military academies.