When the U.S. House of Representatives voted last month to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for her repeated use of the antisemitic phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free,” New Hampshire Democrat Rep. Annie Kuster stood by her friend an ally and voted no.
Rep. Chris Pappas, on the other hand, was one of 22 Democrats who joined the bipartisan rebuke of Tlaib’s call for the destruction of the nation of Israel, which passed 234-188.
On Thursday, the two Granite State Democrats were at odds again when the House voted to censure progressive New York Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) for setting off a fire alarm just ahead of a congressional vote on a stopgap budget measure in September. Pappas was one of three Democrats who voted to censure, while Kuster once again supported a progressive Democrat.
The censure motion passed 219-191. Four Democrats voted “present.” Another 15 simply didn’t vote.
As the House debated a GOP spending plan to keep the federal government open, Bowman and some of his fellow progressives opposed the legislation, and they tried to slow the process by claiming they didn’t have enough time to read the bill. By complete coincidence, Bowman claimed, he “accidentally” set off the fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building as the vote approached, forcing a floor-by-floor evacuation.
“On security video, a man was seen trying to exit the door in the Cannon Building and then pulling the fire alarm that prompted the evacuation,” according to a Capitol Police report. Officers “had previously placed signs with clear language that explained the door was secured and marked as an emergency exit only.”
Bowman insisted he simply didn’t understand how a fire alarm worked and mistakenly believed it was a remote device for opening the doors.
“I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door. I regret this and sincerely apologize for any confusion this caused,” he said.
Republicans rejected Bowman’s explanation as ludicrous, posting photos of the clearly marked fire alarm and signage around the door.
Rather than admit his mistake, Bowman released a memo to his fellow Democrats offering bullet points for them to use in his defense. Among them: “Republicans need to instead focus their energy on the Nazi members of their own party before anything else.”
Labeling his critics “Nazis” brought another swift backlash, and Bowman responded by blaming his staff and claiming he didn’t see the memo before it went out.
Bowman was charged with causing a false fire alarm by local prosecutors in D.C. The congressman pled guilty and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine.
On Tuesday, Michigan Republican Rep. Lisa McClain introduced the censure motion, mocking the notion that Bowman simply made an innocent mistake.
“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,” she said in a statement. “Especially from a former schoolteacher, who without a doubt understands the function and severity of pulling a fire alarm.”
Democrats could not get the simple majority vote required to kill the censure motion.
Neither Kuster nor Pappas would respond to requests for comment from New Hampshire Journal.
Kuster has long been an ally of some of the most outspoken anti-Israel members of Congress. She appeared with antisemite Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) at a New Hampshire Democratic fundraiser and urged House leaders not to censure her over anti-Jewish rhetoric.
Local Jewish leaders expressed their outrage when Kuster voted against censure of Tlaib in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel.
“Rep. Kuster had a chance to have the back of her constituents who love Israel and are Jewish. And she did not support us,” said Jewish Federation of New Hampshire Board Chair Tracy Richmond at the time.