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Rep. Jamaal Bowman pulls fire alarm ahead of vote to pass short-term funding bill

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called for Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., to be punished after he pulled a fire alarm in a Capitol office building on Saturday, comparing it to the Jan 6 rioters who attacked the building.

“When you think about how other people were treated when they come in and wanted to change the course of what was happening in the building,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy went on to say that the Ethics Committee should take the pulled fire alarm “seriously.”

“This should not go without punishment,” McCarthy said. “I’m gonna have a discussion with the Democratic leader about it. But this should not go without punishment. This is an embarrassment.”

Bowman later put out a statement saying it was unintentional.

“Today, as I was rushing to make a vote, I came to a door that is usually open for votes but today would not open,” he said Saturday night. “I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door. 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. It was the exact opposite — I was trying urgently to get to a vote, which I ultimately did and joined my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to keep our government open,” he added.

A screen grab of security footage was distributed to officers so they could locate the person who pulled the alarm, a person familiar with the matter.

Photo linked to Rep. Jamaal Bowman pulling a fire alarm at the Capitol on September 30, 2023.
Photo linked to Rep. Jamaal Bowman pulling a fire alarm at the Capitol on September 30, 2023.

Democratic Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said he has not yet seen the video of the fire alarm being pulled.

“Until I see the video, I have no further comment,” he said when asked.

The U.S. Capitol Police are investigating, according to a statement that did not mention Bowman by name, and the House Administration Committee is conducting a probe as well.

“Rep. Jamal Bowman pulled a fire alarm in Cannon this morning,” an account controlled by the Republicans on the committee wrote on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, including spelling the congressman’s first name incorrectly. “An investigation into why it was pulled is underway.”

The post was signed by committee Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wis.

And fellow New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican, said on X that she’ll introduce a resolution to expel Bowman from the House over the incident. “This is the United States Congress, not a New York City high school. This action warrants expulsion & I’m introducing a resolution to do just that,” she wrote.

The fire alarm sounded in the Cannon office building, which is connected to the Capitol via an underground tunnel, as the Republicans were trying to begin a vote on a 45-day spending measure to keep the government open.

“Today at 12:05 p.m., a fire alarm was activated on the 2nd floor of the Cannon House Office Building,” a Capitol Police spokesperson said in the statement. “The building was evacuated while USCP officers checked the building. The building was reopened after it was determined that there was not a threat. An investigation into what happened and why continues.”

Democrats appeared to try to delay starting the vote, which they had been given very little notice about. Many complained that Republicans were trying to vote before Democrats had time to read the bill.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader, delivered a 52-minute speech in what was seen as an effort to give his fellow members and staff time to figure out whether his party would support the bill.

Ultimately, the vote began two and a half hours after it was scheduled to start. And Democrats overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill.

Ginger Gibson

Ginger Gibson is the senior Washington editor for NBC News Digital.

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca is a producer and off-air reporter covering Congress for NBC News, managing coverage of the House.

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