Gianforte: Congress’ newest misdemeanor

Greg Gianforte

In case you were wondering whether Greg Gianforte will ever live down his body slam of a reporter for the Guardian, here’s a clue.

The Associated Press reported last week that Gianforte drew boos from the Republican side of the aisle during his brief speech following his swearing in as Montana’s representative in the U.S. House. The murmurs apparently had nothing to do with misdemeanor assault but came in response to Gianforte’s call to “drain the swamp” and for a bill denying pay to members of Congress if they fail to balance the budget.

Background noise is pretty hard to evaluate in a recording, but you can judge for yourself here. Perhaps an easier way to determine how Congress feels about tying members’ pay to balancing the budget is to look at the identically titled bill touted by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. Daines introduced the Balanced Budget Accountability Act in the House in 2013 and in the Senate in January 2017.

The House version drew 19 co-sponsors, the last more than three years ago. The Senate version has two co-sponsors. Neither bill has gotten as far as a committee vote.

But what’s really interesting is the C-SPAN transcript of Gianforte’s swearing in. The transcripts, according to a FAQ at the C-SPAN website, are drawn from the closed captioning that scrolls on the screen during sessions of Congress. The transcripts are included on the website to help visitors find the video they want, not to provide an accurate record of the actual speeches.

But they can nevertheless be revealing. On the tape, House Speaker Paul Ryan swears in Gianforte, then says, “Congratulations, you are now a member of the 115th Congress.” On the transcript, Ryan says, “Congratulations, you are now misdemeanor of the 115th Congress.”

The transcript also shows Gianforte saying that he built a business in “Boozman,” which may be the most coherent explanation he has given of the body-slamming incident.

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