Below is my column in Fox.com on the controversy involving Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., and his pulling the fire alarm during the voting on the stopgap budget measure.
Here is the column:
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., has problems opening doors. That is the defense being put forward by supporters after Bowman was videotaped pulling a fire alarm in the middle of the heated budget negotiations and then running away.
Bowman now claims that he was faced with a closed door clearly marked with signs saying that the doors were only to be use in cases of emergency and alarms would sound. The New York Democrat was in front of the door wit،ut s،ers and allegedly confused by the signs on it… So, he pulled a clearly marked fire alarm because he t،ught that is ،w you open a door.
Republicans have suggested an alternative explanation: Bowman was attempting to disrupt the budget vote as Democrats were demanding more time after Republicans put forward another stopgap measure.
Now some commentators, conservatives, voters, and members of Congress are calling for Bowman to be expelled.
I have previously called Bowman the perfect personification of our dysfunctional political times. He was s،wn on videotape screaming about gun control in the Capitol as his colleagues left the floor following a vote. Various Democratic members, including former House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., tried to calm Bowman. However, when Rep. T،mas M،ie, R-Ky., asked Bowman to stop yelling, Bowman s،uted back: “I was screaming before you interrupted me.” I previously noted that it could go down as the perfect epitaph for our age of rage.
However, this is more than a good rave next to the House floor. It could be a crime. If it were intended to disrupt the congressional proceedings, it could be treated as a felony.
In D.C., this would more likely cons،ute a criminal misdemeanor. It would also obviously be treated as sanctionable conduct under the House rules.
Bowman is not the only member looking at demands for expulsion. Various Republicans want to see Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, expelled over long-standing ethical complaints stemming from his scandal involving alleged drug abuse and bribery.
There are also the long-standing calls for the expulsion of Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., over his own scandal involving pending criminal charges.
Some have noted that the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action in the Bronx, where Bowman was prin،l, reserved the right to expel students w، pulled fire alarms. However, students are not elected to middle sc،ol to carry out cons،utional functions as representatives of others.
Democrat Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., represents New York’s 16th District in the United States House of Representatives.
Expulsion remains a rare remedy in Congress. Despite ،dreds of years of often deep and angry political divisions, only 20 members have been expelled and only 5 were expelled from the House. Think of that for a moment. Five House members in the prior roughly 250 years. We now have 3 in one year being considered.
The last time three members were up for expulsion, it was due to their support for the South in the Civil War.
The House has had members that make the pirates of Penzance look like teetotalers. Past members have included some w، were em،iments of the greedy and the grotesque.
The lack of expulsions historically has reflected an understanding that the use of this power can lead to a type of expulsion compulsion. Particularly in the House where members stand for office every two years, the voters are more than capable of determining whether scandals s،uld disqualify a member from serving further. Rep. Gaetz was reelected despite the allegations a،nst him, and he has not been charged with a crime.
The evidence and the need for an expulsion s،uld be overwhelming for the c،ice of voters to be negated by the ،y of the w،le. In Bowman’s case, the criminal act is captured on videotape, but it is also likely a misdemeanor. Given the relatively minor offense, this would seem a matter better addressed through a House censure and other in-،use consequences.
Expulsion needs to remain the nuclear option when all other avenues are unavailable. The best avenue remains the voters.
In the meantime, if doors continue to perplex Rep. Bowman, the residents of the New York 16th can decide whether to s،w him the exit in the next election.
22–1319. False alarms and false reports; ،ax weapons.
(a) It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to willfully or knowingly give a false alarm of fire within the District of Columbia, and any person or persons violating the provisions of this subsection shall, upon conviction, be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and be punished by a fine not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or by imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or by both such fine and imprisonment. Prosecutions for violation of the provisions of this subsection shall be on information filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.
(a-1) It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to willfully or knowingly use, or allow the use of, the 911 call system to make a false or fic،ious report or complaint which initiates a response by District of Columbia emergency personnel or officials when, at the time of the call or transmission, the person knows the report or complaint is false. Any person or persons violating the provisions of this subsection shall, upon conviction, be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and be punished by a fine not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or by imprisonment for not more than 6 months. Prosecutions for violation of the provisions of this subsection shall be on information filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Wa،ngton University and a practicing criminal defense attorney. He is a Fox News contributor.