Democrat Lawmaker Under Investigation After Pulling Fire Alarm in Old House Office Building Before Vote

The vote was on a stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown.
Democrat Lawmaker Under Investigation After Pulling Fire Alarm in Old House Office Building Before Vote
U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on March 22, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) is under investigation after he triggered a fire alarm ahead of a House vote on a government funding bill on Sept. 30.

"Rep (Jamaal) Bowman pulled a fire alarm in Cannon this morning," House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil (R-Wisc.) said in a statement on Sept. 30. "An investigation into why it was pulled is underway."

The fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building, often called the "Old House Office Building," was triggered around noon, leading to an evacuation of the entire building while the House was in session.

The building was reopened an hour later, after Capitol Police determined that the situation wasn't a threat.

Mr. Bowman's office has characterized the move as an innocent mistake.

In a statement late on Sept. 30 to "personally clear up confusion" surrounding the situation, Mr. Bowman said that he was "rushing to make a vote" when he "came to a door that is usually open for votes but ... would 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 apologize for any confusion this caused," he said.

"But I want to be very clear, this was not me, in any way, trying to delay any vote," he stressed. "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.

"I also met after the vote with the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police, at their request, and explained what had happened. My hope is that no one will make more of this than it was."

Capitol Police said in a statement late on Sept. 30 that an “investigation into what happened and why continues.”

The fire alarms in the Old House Office Building are pull-down triggers encased in bright red boxes that read "FIRE."

The Capitol Police didn't respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for further comment.

At the time of the evacuation, Democrat lawmakers in the House were working to delay a vote on a 45-day funding bill to keep federal agencies open. They said they needed time to review the 71-page bill that Republicans had just released to avoid a shutdown.

The stopgap funding bill ultimately passed in a 335–91 vote. Mr. Bowman and a majority of Democrats voted in support of the bill.

In a vote on the night of Sept. 30, lawmakers in the Senate approved the measure, which was signed by President Joe Biden to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

After the bill passed the House, a number of Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), criticized Mr. Bowman for triggering the fire alarm.

“I think ethics should look at this," Mr. McCarthy told reporters at a news conference on Sept. 30. He noted that Mr. Bowman’s action was caught on camera and said it “should not go without punishment.”

Mr. McCarthy went further, appearing to equate Mr. Bowman’s actions to those charged in connection with the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“We watched how people have been treated if they’ve done something wrong in this Capitol. It will be interesting to see how he is treated on what he was trying to obstruct when it came to the American public,” the House speaker told reporters.

Mr. Bowman said that House Democrat leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) was “supportive” after the two spoke shortly after the House vote.

“[Mr. Jeffries] understood that it was a mistake and that’s all it was,” Mr. Bowman said, adding that the reactions from Mr. McCarthy and other Republicans were dishonest. “[Mr. McCarthy’s] trying to weaponize a mistake of me coming, rushing to get to a vote as something nefarious when it wasn't."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.