By Terry Hunsicker
Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat House Representative from New York, is facing allegations of pulling a fire alarm to delay a vote by the United States Congress on Sept. 30.
The fire alarm was pulled as democrats sought to delay a vote on a bill that would have prevented a government shutdown from having time to fully read the bill, leading to speculation that he pulled the fire alarm to further add to the desired delay.
In a statement released on the social media site X, formerly Twitter, Jamaal Bowman called pulling the fire alarm an accident en route to joining ongoing congress proceedings.
“I came to a door that is usually open for votes, but today would not open,” Jamaal said in the statement, “I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door.”
“This was not me, in any way, trying to delay any vote.”
The explanation has faced scrutiny from Republicans, especially former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, who called for a House investigation into the incident.
U.S. Capitol Police also announced in a press release that they would investigate the fire alarm being pulled, stating they would “investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the firm alarm that resulted in the evacuation of the Cannon House Office Building.”
“USCP (United States Capitol Police) officers had previously placed signs with clear language that explained the door was secured and marked as an emergency exit only.”
In photos of the door where the fire alarm was pulled, signs over the door designate the door as an emergency exit. The signs also read, “Push until alarm sounds (3 seconds), the door will unlock in 30 seconds.”
House representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended Bowman’s actions during an interview with CNN about the signage on the door that may have resulted in Bowman’s confusion in pulling the alarm. AOC said, “I think if you actually do see some of the photos of the signs, I think there’s something to be said.”
The incident occurred during an ongoing saga related to attempts by Congress to avoid a government shutdown. This event occurs when Congress fails to pass legislation for the annual budget, causing federal agencies that are not deemed essential to be completely unable to function. In contrast, essential agencies are forced to send employees to work without pay.
The bill related to Bowman’s incident, which eventually passed, allowed Congress to narrowly avoid a government shutdown by providing temporary funding until Nov. 17. While this does not avoid the possibility of a government shutdown, it extends the deadline for Congress to reach a full funding agreement.
The House of Representatives made history by successfully voting Kevin McCarthy out of his position as speaker, throwing the new deadline into uncertainty as the position must be filled before funding bills can be addressed. The ousting has largely been connected to the former speaker’s handling of the government shutdown avoidance, with criticism from democrats from broken agreements in May and the recent republican criticisms resulting from McCarthy’s reliance on democrat support to pass the temporary funding agreement.