Republicans calling for action against the New York Democrat Jamaal Bowman for triggering a fire alarm in a congressional office building as a vote loomed on a deal to avoid a government shutdown should “check their own values”, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, citing the lack of action against a GOP New Yorker, George Santos, after he was indicted for fraud.
“They are protecting someone who has lied to the American people, lied to the United States House of Representatives, lied to congressional investigators,” Ocasio-Cortez, widely known as AOC, told CNN’s State of the Union.
“But they’re filing a motion to expel a member who, in a moment of panic, was trying to escape a vestibule? Give me a break.”
Santos won his seat last year but saw his resumé taken apart and his background extensively questioned before being indicted on charges of money laundering and fraud. In May, he pled not guilty. Republicans sidestepped an effort to expel him from Congress, saying legal processes should run their course.
Like Ocasio-Cortez, Bowman is a prominent New York progressive. In a statement on Saturday, he denied trying to delay the process that stopped a government shutdown.
He said: “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. I regret this and sincerely apologise for any confusion this caused.
“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.”
Kevin McCarthy, the speaker under pressure from his own party over the deal with Democrats, likened Bowman’s behaviour to that of Donald Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol on 6 January 2021, trying to overturn an election in a riot now linked to nine deaths.
Nicole Malliotakis, a New York Republican, said she was drafting a resolution to expel.
Authorities were investigating. In Washington, falsely activating a fire alarm is a misdemeanour.
Ocasio-Cortez told CNN: “I think there’s something to be said about, the government’s about to shut down, there’s a vote clock that’s going down, the exits that are normally open in that building were suddenly closed … Jamaal Bowman … he’s fully participating in saying there was a misunderstanding.
“But what I do think is important to raise is the fact that Republicans like Nicole Malliotakis and others immediately moved to file motions to censure, motions to expel before there has even been conversations … to even see if there was a misunderstanding here.
“… What they did not do was to commit to the same when George Santos was actually found guilty after a thorough investigation of 13 federal charges.”
Santos has reportedly negotiated with federal prosecutors, suggesting a plea deal might be on the cards. He has not been found guilty.
Ocasio-Cortez continued: “He’s indicted on everything from wire fraud to actual lying to House investigators. And [Republicans] have been buddying up and giggling with him on the House floor.”
Bowman, she said, “admits he’s embarrassed … he apologised. And they are protecting someone who has not only committed wire fraud, not only defrauded veterans, not only lied to congressional investigators, but is openly gloating about it.
“[It] is absolutely humiliating to the Republican caucus. And I think that they should really check their own values.”