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GOP wants Rep. Jamaal Bowman punished after he triggered a fire alarm on Saturday

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., listens to fellow speakers before President Biden speaks on the debt limit during an event at SUNY Westchester Community College on May 10, 2023, in Valhalla, N.Y. (John Minchillo/AP)

Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York says he mistakenly triggered a fire alarm in a congressional office building Saturday afternoon as elected officials were preparing to vote on a spending bill to avert a potential government shutdown.

Republicans alleged that Bowman was trying to delay the vote and have called for him to be punished, but the Democrat said in a statement that the incident occurred as he was rushing to cast his vote and arrived at a closed door that is usually open.

"I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door," he said. "I regret this and sincerely apologize for any confusion this caused."

Bowman emphasized that he was not attempting to hold up the House 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."

The Associated Press reported that the fire alarm sounded as House Democrats were hoping to delay a vote on the 71-page stopgap spending measure proposed by Republicans so they could have more time to read the bill.

Both chambers ultimately approved a spending bill Saturday, and President Biden signed it shortly before the midnight deadline, avoiding a government shutdown.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, suggested that Bowman triggered the fire alarm on purpose to force a government shutdown and said the House Ethics Committee should review what happened.

McCarthy also made reference to the rioters who stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election won by Biden.

"When you think of how other people are treated when they wanted to come in and change the course of what was happening in this building," McCarthy said.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York, said on Saturday that he hadn't seen the video of Bowman pulling the fire alarm and "until I see the video I'll have no further comment."

Paul Starks, a spokesperson for the United States Capitol Police, said a fire alarm was activated at 12:05 p.m. Saturday on the second floor of the Cannon House Office Building. USCP officers initiated an evacuation and checked the building, he added.

"The building was reopened after it was determined that there was not a threat," Starks said. "An investigation into what happened and why continues."

Bowman said he met with the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police after the vote to explain what occurred.

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