Talk of Power, Power of Talk: The 1994 Health Care Reform Debate and Beyond

By Michael W. Shelton | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6
The Congressional Record

To add to the layering of elements or features for the particular text being developed here, it is important to turn to the Congressional Record as a textual database. As noted, the actual debate regarding comprehensive health care reform took place on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and the most appropriate data source available for the examination of that discursive dispute is the Congressional Record. Scholars interested in the textual analysis of rhetorical events have long turned to the Congressional Record as a primary database. Indeed, textbooks on rhetorical criticism contained explicit and often detailed discussions regarding the Congressional Record as a mainstay for cities throughout a period of forty or so years ( Auer, 1959; Borman, 1965; Clevenger, Parson, & Polisky, 1968; Thonssen, Baird & Braden, 1970). Although more recent textbooks on rhetorical criticism have turned to other sorts of texts as mainstays for criticism, the Congressional Record remains a vital source for those interested in the process and practice of congressional discourse and debate. To better illustrate that vitality, it is necessary to take a brief look at the historical evolution of the Congressional Record, to explore the case that has been raised regarding the usefulness of the Record as a textual database, and to fully explicate the value of the Record as a textual source for congressional discourse.


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Although the Congressional Record has been employed as a textual database for the examination of discourse in both chambers of the U.S. Congress by rhetorical scholars for decades, it has not always been available, nor has its use lacked controversy. For a good many years, there was no official recording device for speeches, debates, and other actions in the U.S. Congress. An excellent summary of the history of textual recording of discourse in the U.S. Congress was developed by Thonssen, Baird, and Braden ( 1970) in their landmark text on rhetorical criticism. It is informative to take a brief look at the historical development of the Congressional Record as presented by Thonssen, Baird, and Braden.

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