Montana software entrepreneur Greg Gianforte was sworn in Wednesday as the state’s sole U.S. House member on an afternoon that found him alternately praised as a “family man” and booed for suggesting that his fellow representatives not be paid until they pass a balanced budget.
In proceedings telecast live on CSPAN, Gianforte raised his right hand and took the oath of office on the House floor, after a ceremonial swearing-in attended by former Montana Republican Reps. Denny Rehberg, Ryan Zinke (now Interior secretary) and Steve Daines (now one of the state’s two U.S. senators).
House Speaker Paul Ryan presided over both events, welcoming Gianforte to the 115th Congress.
House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, then took to the House floor and welcomed the newest member of Congress, praising Gianforte as a businessman and family man.
“Now, Montana may only send one member to this body,” McCarthy said, “but out West, it’s not about how many you are, it’s about how much you do. Greg is a doer. And we’re happy to have him here.”
Then it was Gianforte’s turn to address the House for the first time, and as it turned out, ruffle a few feathers.
“I’m a business guy and an electrical engineer,” he said. “I’m trained to solve hard problems – not to argue about them, just to get things done.”
His loyalty, he said, would be to Montanans, not to the Republican Party. “I am Montana’s lone voice here in this House, sent by the people to do the work of the people,” he said.
That’s when Gianforte said he came to Washington to “drain the swamp,” and promised to introduce legislation prohibiting lawmakers from being paid until they pass a budget. He also called for term limits and a ban on members of Congress from lobbying after they leave office.
Boos could be heard from the Republican side of the House floor when Gianforte called for the “no balanced budget, no pay” measure, and a buzz was audible throughout the chamber when his brief remarks came to a conclusion.
The swearing-in came less than a week after Gianforte was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management and a $385 fine for body slamming a reporter on election eve.
Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was treated and released at a Bozeman hospital following the attack. Gianforte was charged in Gallatin County with misdemeanor assault. He has also paid a civil settlement to Jacobs that included a written apology and a $50,000 donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Just prior to the attack, Jacobs asked the then-candidate about the health care bill that passed the House earlier this year. An audio recording picked up the sounds of a scuffle followed by Gianforte yelling, “Get the hell out of here!”
On Wednesday, Jacobs issued a statement welcoming Gianforte to Capitol Hill, “where I’m confident he will live up to his pledge to champion a free press and the First Amendment. In the courtroom last week, he openly offered to do an interview with me when he came to Washington and I look forward to taking him up on that in the coming days.”