No, The Bowman Controversy Does Not Warrant Expulsion

Below is my column in 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 without staffers and allegedly confused by the signs on it… So, he pulled a clearly marked fire alarm because he thought that is how 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 shown 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. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., asked Bowman to stop yelling, Bowman shouted 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 constitute 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 principal, reserved the right to expel students who pulled fire alarms. However, students are not elected to middle school to carry out constitutional 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 hundreds 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 who were embodiments 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 should disqualify a member from serving further. Rep. Gaetz was reelected despite the allegations against him, and he has not been charged with a crime.

The evidence and the need for an expulsion should be overwhelming for the choice of voters to be negated by the body of the whole. 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-house 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 show him the exit in the next election.


22–1319. False alarms and false reports; hoax 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 fictitious 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.

125 thoughts on “No, The Bowman Controversy Does Not Warrant Expulsion”

  1. Didn’t he just yell fire in a crowded theater? Isn’t the current battle cry for censorship that misquoted, and frankly ignorant line. It is NOT illegal to yell fire, but it is not an event without consequence, as the only thing that “prevents” a guy like this from doing it is his own MORAL FIBER.

    The problem here is that for Turley and the rest of the scholarly class everything is theory, abstract, and is contained within the “yes it is no it isn’t because it depends” world and Morality was replaced with laws that must anticipate every possible permutation of action or the perp is innocent.

    Fact. What he did was immoral. Regardless of legality, or rules, or codes, or statutes, it was immoral and that’s that. He knew what he was doing many contend and the Turley defense is “well the witness said he made a mistake” which is what someone who did it on purpose would say. But worse, assume for a second he made a mistake, and, admitted he cannot read the fire alarm sign in the capital.

    How is that any better? So he’s either a liar and a subversive, or he’s got brain damage but its okay because what again?

    That said, this is the new normal. Fetterman the other day said, in congress, that he cannot understand what people say and requires his phone to translate. It was a way to champion technology, and the apologist class simply cheered him. Rather than seeing a sitting member of congress just admitted that his brain damage, damage that occurred before he was elected, is so bad he cannot understand language, but that’s okay because equity.

    That said, the fact is the Victim class and the Apologist class now rule the world and the rest of us just wait for that moment where we are standing over a dead body, with a smoking gun, and are let off when we say “uh, I just didn’t know how it worked, it was an accident and racism. “

  2.      Please don’t try to confuse  & obfuscate other House members bad behavior with Bowman’s entirely *intentional* pulling of a fire alarm switch.
         The DC Police should arrest him & punish him for what is glaringly obvious. Funny you can’t see this…..

  3. I’m no expert but I believe this was the 150th + vote that he was attempting to make. Seems logical he would know his way around and how the doors work. There is signage all over the place and Anyone with an I.Q. above a 3rd grader knows what a Fire Alarm does and doesn’t do. I would say to him… DOn’t let the door hit you in the backside on your way out.

  4. Oh please a Jan 6th protestor got 20 years for disrupting a vote. Equal protection demands Bowman get worse. To whom much is given ….

  5. “Despite hundreds 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,” Professor Turley.

    In the case of Bowman, you assign considerable weight to precedent and past practices.

    In the case of “natural born citizen,” you assign none.


    You support Obama being a “natural born citizen” arbitrarily while ignoring the preponderance of evidence.

    Obama will never be a “natural born citizen” or eligible for the presidency. John Jay and George Washington agreed to a requirement that the president be a “natural born citizen” to place a “strong check” against foreign influence in that office.

    To wit,

    “Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise & seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government, and to declare expressly that the Command in chief of the american army shall not be given to, nor devolved on, any but a natural born Citizen,” Jay to Washington, 1787,

    The Law of Nations, 1758, required that a “natural born citizen” enjoy two parents who were citizens at the time of the candidate’s birth and a father who is a citizen.

    Ben Franklin wrote that the Law of Nations “has been continually in the hands of the members of our Congress, now sitting,” according to the letter from Ben Franklin to Charles Dumas, 9 December 1775.

        No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President;….

  6. Sorry Turley, you’re wrong on this…
    Expulsion is warranted. Either you believe him… that it was an ‘honest mistake’, or you don’t. Clearly no one believes this to be an honest mistake considering the person, and the circumstance. Pulling the fire alarm was an intentional act. (Note that if he really wanted to go thru the doors, he would have just had to follow the instructions on the cards he knocked down.) So if it was an intentional act, the next question is why? (Motive for the action.)
    Since his story falls apart on the claim he was rushing to get to vote… we know from other sources, the Democrats were trying to delay or avoid the vote… in order to ensure a shutdown of the government. (Partisan politics so they could attempt to play the blame game, which BTW sentiment was against the Dems because everyone saw this coming.)

    So then if the action was to disrupt House business, then you have reason to expel.


    1. @Ian

      There is no way he didn’t know what he was doing, and everybody sees it. I guess the question is, does anyone any longer care? I guarantee you constituents under 30 don’t (they have voted AOC in *twice*, and they applaud stuff like this); this is just how they think, in perhaps innocent honesty (and that is being very generous), how you do things. This is all going to get so, so much worse. They are getting the keys to the kingdom long before we all are gone. Might be time to rethink some things if any of that resonates even a little bit, because it is absolutely coming, whether one can wrap their head around it or not.

      1. @James.
        Yes, that’s the point.
        Everyone sees it, and if you do, you have to criminal charges. 1) Pulling the fire alarm. (Misdemeanor).
        2) Disrupting Congress.

        Remember that the Dems were trying to stall and adjourn.

        This his behavior was criminal… he should be expelled.

    2. Do not ignore the fact that this idiot broke the law by deliberately pulling a fire alarm when there was no fire.
      Any citizen would have been arrested and fined for this trick – well, not if they were z democrat.
      Tired of this type of behavior.

  7. I don’t feel congressman Bowman should be expelled. However some disciplinary sanction should be put on him. I think he’s been involved with our public school system for far too long. Philosophical me and congressman Bowman are polar opposites.

  8. “The vote — the official proceeding — occurs in the Capitol Building NOT the Cannon Building.” (Repeated ad infinitum)

    So here’s the Left’s “defense” of Bowman:

    He’s too stupid to realize that pulling that particular fire alarm would not satisfy his desire.

  9. Phony rage aside, the only real question is whether or not this action was “intended to disrupt the congressional proceedings” If so, we have already seen how the DOJ approaches such action and this will not only test those approaches but the DOJ motives.

        1. Send him poste haste to my former grade school vice-principal for a swat from the perforated paddle. More empirical proof these politicians have yet to graduate from the crib.

    1. Legal right and wrong is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It is both sad and terrible for anyone to filter right and wrong as depending on party label.

    2. “How can you, Mr. Turley, remain a democrat and do so with a straight face?”

      Easy. The Democrats are no longer true Democrats. They have become a lawless, far left, Jacobin organization.

  10. Sorry, Professor, but – mm-mm. These people have done unspeakable things for so much less, and they need to see the pendulum still swings both ways. You talked of having something remaining in congress to have faith in – standing up to the dems who had near unilateral power previously yet brought us here is a great place to start, and right now is a great time to do it. The dems are the ones that changed the rules and the imposed their changes on everyone else; if we are still a free society, then we (and by ‘we’ I simply mean non-dems, whomever they may be) can hand it back to equally. 

  11. Biden’s era is becoming a comedian’s hay day with material everywhere. I party claiming to represent the so-called ‘adults’ in the room found a dummy to pull the fire alarm to stop a vote. The dummy happened to have been a junior high school principal. Goes to show, gerrymandering congressional districts based on guarantying a so-called “person of color” seat is not only discriminatory, the practice produces horrible representatives.

  12. I would happily boot all three of the aforementioned Congressmen….without a moment’s hesitation,.

    Nothing like that to make the next in line to straighten up and fly right….at least for a while.

    As to the notion of trusting the voters….let’s consider how that has worked out with folks like Pelosi, Gaetz, Waters, Schiff, Swalwell, Boxer, AOC, Schumer, McCain, Cobbs, Kennedy (Ted), Kamala, Guam gonna turn over Johnson, and of course Biden.

    It sounds good in principle but the reality of it is something else.

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