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Political Notebook

House votes to censure Bowman over fire alarm

Representative Jamaal Bowman on Capitol Hill in March.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

The Republican-led House voted Thursday to censure Representative Jamaal Bowman, Democrat of New York, for pulling a fire alarm in September that forced the evacuation of a House office building while lawmakers were laboring to avert a government shutdown.

The resolution passed 214-191, in a vote that broke largely along party lines.

The resolution was sponsored by Representative Lisa C. McClain, Republican of Michigan, secretary of the House Republican conference, who said Wednesday that Bowman had “knowingly pulled a fire alarm to cause chaos and stop the House from doing business.”

“Mr. Bowman should know the consequences of pulling a fire alarm to cause panic,” McClain said, citing Bowman’s time as a former middle school principal in the Bronx. “In New York schools, the policy is clear. When a student commits a crime on campus, police are called and that student is either suspended or expelled. One would think Representative Bowman would be able to hold himself to the same standards as he held his students to.”

During debate Wednesday, Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, called the resolution “profoundly stupid,” trivial, and a waste of time.

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“I find it terribly ironic that we are talking about censuring Mr. Bowman, and yet we never censured any of our colleagues who tried to overturn the election on January 6th,” McGovern said.

Asked about Bowman’s expected censure ahead of Thursday’s vote, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York, said “extreme” Republicans were targeting another Democrat while “burying their heads in the sand with respect to unlawful or unacceptable conduct by their own members.”

Bowman, 47, reiterated Wednesday the explanation he had offered in September: that he had been rushing to the Capitol to vote when he tried to exit through a door in the Cannon Office Building that he usually went through.

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“It didn’t open and, due to confusion and rush to go vote, I pulled the fire alarm,” Bowman said. “I immediately took responsibility and accountability for my actions and pled guilty. The legal process on this matter has played out. In no way did I obstruct official proceedings. The vote took place and Democrats were able to ensure we avoided a government shutdown.”

In late October, Bowman pleaded guilty to the charge of pulling a false fire alarm. As part of a deal with the D.C. attorney general’s office, Bowman agreed to pay a $1,000 fine, give $50 to a crime victim’s compensation fund, and, within two weeks, apologize in writing to the US Capitol Police chief, according to court documents.

Washington Post

Move to start Biden impeachment inquiry advances

House Republicans on Thursday took a step toward formally authorizing an impeachment inquiry against President Biden tied to his family’s business dealings.

The vote, which is expected next week, would require all House lawmakers to go on the record as supporting or opposing the impeachment probe conservative Republicans have been pursuing for months.

That move is something 18 Republicans representing areas Biden won in 2020 in New York, California, and elsewhere could be reluctant to do. Speaker Mike Johnson has said he believes the vote is necessary, however, in part to counter arguments that the ongoing investigation is not legally legitimate.

Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan said earlier this week he expected his panel could begin formal hearings early next year.

The resolution, sponsored by Judiciary Committee member Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, calls on the Judiciary, Oversight, and Ways and Means panels to determine “whether sufficient grounds exist” to impeach Biden. The GOP-led panels have probed whether the president benefited from his son’s foreign business dealings or abused his office.

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The resolution does not spell out any specific potential articles of impeachment.

White House spokesman Ian Sams panned the resolution as a “baseless stunt.”

“The American people are yet again going to see a clear contrast in priorities: President Biden who is focused on solving the challenges facing America and the world, and extreme House Republicans who only focus on stupid stunts to get attention for themselves,” he said in a statement.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries also blasted the move.

“Next week we are going to waste time on an illegitimate impeachment inquiry of President Biden,” he told reporters.

At least one House Republican, Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, has said he will vote against the resolution. Buck is retiring at the end of this Congress.

Johnson and his lieutenants can only absorb three GOP defections in order for the authorization vote to succeed, with Democrats likely to be unified against it.

Johnson, who has said he’s confident the resolution will pass, has blasted the White House for “stonewalling” the investigation by refusing to turn over key witnesses, and challenging subpoenas.

Sams responded this week that House Republicans have had access to 35,000 pages of financial records, 36 hours of witness interviews, and more.

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Republican leaders’ decision to move to a formal vote comes one day after they threatened to hold the president’s son, Hunter Biden, in contempt of Congress if he doesn’t show up for closed-door questioning by congressional investigators.

Hunter Biden, whose overseas business dealings are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, has offered to testify publicly rather than appear under subpoena for a private Dec. 13 deposition, as he has been subpoenaed to do.

Republicans have countered that Hunter Biden’s demands amount to a “request for special treatment” and an attempt to “bully” Congress.

Bloomberg News

Biden says he is not the only Democrat who can beat Trump

WASHINGTON — President Biden conceded Wednesday that he is not the only Democrat who could beat former president Donald Trump in next year’s election, but he made clear that he intends to remain in the race rather than pass the torch to a new generation.

Biden’s reelection campaign appeal to his fellow party members has been predicated on the argument that he is the Democrat best equipped to keep his impeached and indicted predecessor out of the Oval Office. But the president was asked Wednesday whether he believed any other Democrats could prevail over Trump.

“Probably 50 of them,” Biden said. “I’m not the only one who could defeat him. But I will defeat him.”

The president’s remark came amid widespread doubts about that among Democrats, who worry that his low poll ratings foreshadow an uphill campaign to keep Trump away from the White House. At a campaign fundraiser in the Boston area Tuesday, Biden said that “if Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running,” suggesting just how much his predecessor motivated his decision to run again at age 81.

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While polls show most Democrats would rather have someone else represent the party in next year’s election, Biden’s case for another nomination has been bolstered by the reality that there is no obvious replacement who inspires widespread confidence among Democrats that they could beat Trump.

Biden faces only long-shot challengers in the Democratic primaries in the form of Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota and Marianne Williamson, an author. But several other ambitious Democrats are waiting in the wings in case Biden changes course and drops out, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Governors Gavin Newsom of California, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois.

Speaking with reporters after delivering a statement about Ukraine aid Wednesday, Biden also dismissed Republican attacks on his family’s business interests as House Republicans pursue impeachment. Asked if he had met with his son Hunter Biden’s business associates from other countries such as China and Ukraine, Biden said: “I did not. It’s just a bunch of lies.”

New York Times