Word-for-word, Congress big on health, energy

Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:24pm EST
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The most commonly used words in Congress over the last two years were "health," "energy" and "security," says a website that sifts through Capitol Hill's abundant rhetoric in search of deeper meaning.

By counting individual words spoken by lawmakers on the floor of the Senate or the House of Representatives, or entered into the official Congressional Record, the Sunlight Foundation says the site (www.capitolwords.org) offers a "zeitgeist-o-meter."

It was relaunched on Thursday from an earlier version that was less sophisticated, said a spokeswoman for the foundation, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog group.

"We created the site not only to show a kind of snapshot of what's on legislators' minds, but to inspire more digging into the Congressional Record," foundation director and co-founder Ellen Miller said.

Measuring the frequency of word usage by day, week, month, year, and over the entirety of a two-year Congress, the site also shows how quickly hot topics can change.

For instance, the most-often uttered words last week were "industry," "auto" and "companies." "Health" and "energy" did not even make the top 25.

The site also ranks the most talkative members of Congress, based on the words they've spoken in the past 60 days.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada topped the list on Thursday, followed by Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

In the House, the most long-winded lawmaker was Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, the site says.   Continued...