The Week In Words (May 12-19)


What words were used the most in the past seven days and why? These are the questions I’m going to look at in this new feature with the help of Sunlight’s trusty web site Capitol Words. Capitol Words provides your fix for the words of the day, week, month, or year spoken in Congress by everyone or by a lone lawmaker. It serves as a zeitgeist-o-meter for politics in Washington and hopefully digging into it, we’ll see what a single word can tell us about the debate in Congress.

1. Credit & 3. Card:

There’s little surprise that the word of the week was “credit” and the number three slot fell to “card.” This week the House and Senate debated and passed the Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights Act, the first bill to enact regulations on the credit card industry. Lawmakers eagerly moved to position themselves against the abusive practices of the credit card companies (unless they were from South Dakota).

Sen. Kent Conrad’s comments comparing the credit card industry to the subprime mortgages that everyone loves to hate are a perfect example of the excessive use of one word in one week, “That is just a little offshoot of what they did in the subprime mortgage. Hey, if your credit ain’t perfect, as they say, come to us. You got bad credit , slow credit , no credit , been bankrupt, come over here; let us give you a hand. That is what this credit card says. ” He goes on later to expound on the dangers of giving kids access to “the new Hello Kitty Platinum Plus Visa credit card.” Perhaps the first reference to Hello Kitty in the Congressional Record.

The debate over the bill began at the end of last week and continued into this one when the House and Senate voted on final passage. The bill passed easily in both chambers.

“Credit” notched 2,310 total mentions and was the word of the day for the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 19th. “Card” scored 1,287 total mentions, never making the word of the day.

2. Health:

While the credit card debate may be transitory, health care is the Ford truck of congressional debate — like a rock. And like a rock, it can be very hard to move through a body of 535 politicians. Some might even call the struggle Sisyphisian. But Congress, egged on by President Obama, is keen on pushing, and passing, some form of health care reform to cover the 40+ million uninsured. “Health” could wind up the word of the year, but for now it is just #2 for the week.

There doesn’t appear to be any overarching reason for “health” to rank up in the two spot other than the importance it holds as a topic. There was no bill debated nor an important debate. Instead there are a number of individual speeches that reference health care in them.

There’s the diatribe against socialism from Georgia Rep. Paul Broun, “We see this administration and the Congress wanting to socialize health care, making a Washington-based health care system that is going to take away patients’ choices.”

And then there is Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy striking the exact opposite tone, “Mr. Speaker, those of us who came to Washington to pass comprehensive and revolutionary, potentially transformational health care reform are emboldened by the realization that we now, for the first time in almost a decade, have a President and an administration who are as committed as any advocate in this country to the premise that this country must reform its health care system.”

“Health” received 1,903 total mentions to put it in the second spot and it was the word of the day on May 18th.

4. Public & 5. Country:

These two are words that are regularly used by lawmakers in Washington. Everyone talks about their country and how great it, and its people, are. There are also countless insertions into the Congressional Record commending the public service of district residents or deceased local heroes. “Public” wound up with 1,201 total mentions and “country” received 1,141 total mentions.