Democrat Jamaal Bowman denies pulling fire alarm to delay House vote

<span>Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/AP</span>
Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/AP

The New York Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman denied that he pulled a fire alarm in a Capitol office building to delay a vote on the stopgap measure that ultimately stopped a government shutdown.

In a statement on Saturday evening, the New Yorker said he mistakenly thought the alarm, which prompted the Cannon House office building to be evacuated, would open a door.

“Today, as I was rushing to make a vote, I came to a door that is usually open for votes but today was not open. I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door,” said Bowman.

“I regret this and sincerely apologize for any confusion this caused.”

He dismissed accusations from Republicans that he pulled the alarm in an attempt to delay the vote.

“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 to urgently get a vote, which I ultimately did and joined my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to keep our government open,” he said.

The 45-day funding resolution, which Bowman and all Democrats bar one voted for, passed with a 335-91. It then passed the Senate.

Bowman said that he met the sergeant at arms and the Capitol police at their request, and explained what had happened.

Among Republicans, the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, compared Bowman’s actions with those of the January 6 rioters.

“I was really appalled watching Democrats’ actions today, to delay it, to get a shutdown,” said McCarthy, amid Democratic complaints that they did not have sufficient time to review the bill Republicans released last-minute in an attempt to avoid a shutdown.

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“That’s a new low,” he said, adding: “We watched how people have been treated if they’ve done something wrong in this Capitol. It would be interesting to see how he is treated and what he was trying to obstruct when it came to the American public.”

Brian Steil, a Republican from Wisconsin and chair of the House administration committee, announced an investigation.

The far-right Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has publicly clashed with Bowman, said she was calling on the justice department to prosecute him “using the same law they used to prosecute January 6 defendants for interfering with an official proceeding”.

A Republican from Bowman’s own state, Nicole Malliotakis, said she was drafting a resolution to expel him, tweeting: “This is the United States Congress, not a New York City high school” – possibly a reference to Bowman’s former career as a principal.

“This action warrants expulsion and I’m introducing a resolution to do just that.”

Another New York Republican, Elise Stefanik, tweeted: “A Democrat [sic] member of Congress just committed a felony by pulling the fire alarm to try to delay and stop a Congressional vote to fund the government.”

In DC, falsely pulling a fire alarm is considered a misdemeanor. It remained unclear if Bowman would be prosecuted.