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Democrats Decry House Censure Vote as ‘Attempt to Silence’ Jamaal Bowman

Democrats accused Republicans of wasting time and pursuing “another attempt to silence a person of colour”, after the New York progressive Jamaal Bowman was formally censured for pulling a fire alarm in a congressional office building.

“This censure of Representative Bowman is yet another attempt to silence a person of colour in this chamber,” the Michigan representative Rashida Tlaib said.

“They are obsessed with attacking Black and brown members of Congress, but do nothing to help our families thrive. They need to get a grip.”

The resolution introduced by the Michigan Republican Lisa McClain was adopted on Thursday by a vote of 214-191 with five voting present. Three Democrats – Jahana Hayes, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and Chris Pappas – voted in favour.

Bowman was seen on surveillance video pulling the alarm on 30 September, as a vote loomed during efforts to avoid a government shutdown. He said he did so accidentally. Critics claimed he was trying to delay the vote.

Bowman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine, the maximum applicable under Washington DC law.

A prominent progressive, Bowman has long presented a target for rightwing anger. Last week, the New York Republican, fabulist and accused fraudster George Santos introduced a motion to expel Bowman, a parting shot as Santos became only the sixth representative ever expelled.

The resolution to censure Bowman was introduced on Wednesday. McClain said: “While the House was working tirelessly to avert a government shutdown, Representative Bowman was working nefariously to prevent a vote.

“It is reprehensible that a member of Congress would go to such lengths to prevent House Republicans from bringing forth a vote to keep the government operating and Americans receiving their paychecks. Especially from a former schoolteacher, who without a doubt understands the function and severity of pulling a fire alarm.”

In response, Bowman said: “I immediately took responsibility and accountability for my actions and pled guilty … Republicans are trying to rehash an already litigated matter.”

On Thursday, Pappas, the New Hampshire Democrat who voted for censure, said Bowman “broke the law … and has since ple[aded] guilty. The resolution was a straightforward condemnation of his actions.”

But his was a rare Democratic voice in favour. Tlaib, censured herself last month for condemning Israel’s actions in its war with Hamas, said Republicans were “desperate to distract from the fact that [they have done] nothing … to improve the lives of the American people or end the ongoing genocide [in Gaza].

“So now you’re trying to shift the focus by baselessly attacking Representative Bowman to score cheap political points, comparing him to the white supremacists on January 6 who were smashing windows in the Capitol … and screaming ‘Hang Mike Pence!’

“Your inability to govern is so obvious to the American people. You all can’t even find enough Republicans to vote to pass a budget or keep a speaker. This is yet another attempt to silence a person of colour in this chamber.”

Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic minority leader, said Republicans were “burying their heads in the sand with respect to unlawful or unacceptable conduct by their own members … and engaging in efforts to irresponsibly and illegitimately target President Joe Biden and his family”.

In a statement, Bowman thanked Democratic colleagues and noted that the Republican-controlled ethics committee did not investigate his action.

“I had hoped that we could devote our time and resources to doing our jobs and addressing the issues Americans care about,” he said, calling Republican “efforts to target me … a testament to the importance of my voice”.

Source: The Guardian