The Weekly Podcast: Yes or No: Do Congressional Hearings Allow For Nuance? ANSWER THE QUESTION!!

By | January 5, 2023

Ah, the “Yes or no” question. A staple of any congressional hearing.

Congressmen and Senators often demand witnesses quickly answer questions as yes or no.

They frequently cite time constraints — perhaps after giving lengthy statements. But does “yes or no” provide Congress or the public deeper understanding, broader explanation, or even nuance?

In this episode of C-SPAN’s “The Weekly,” hear some of the most remarkable “yes or no” exchanges from hearings we’ve covered.

Is this an episode of C-SPAN’s “The Weekly” that any Congressional hearing junkie won’t want to miss — YES OR NO!

That one’s easy. The answer: yes.

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I have an iPhone And if I move from here and go over There and sit with my Democrat friends Which will make them real nervous does Google track my movement Does Google through this phone know that I have moved here and moved over to the Left It's either yes or no not by default There may be a Google service which You've opted into use and if so Google Knows that I am moving over there it's It's not a trick question you know you Make a hundred million dollars a year You ought to be able to answer that Question does Google know through this Phone that I am moving over there and Sit next to Mr Johnson which would make Him real nervous It's his question it's yes or no I Wouldn't be able to answer without Looking at uh you can't say yes or no Without knowing more details If I walk over there and sit next to Mr Johnson And carry my phone does Google know that I was sitting here and then I moved over There you're welcome anytime judge Yes or no I genuinely don't know without knowing My shots you don't know I think Google Obviously does ah the classic answer the Question yes or no a staple of any Congressional hearing this time with an

IPhone often a member of Congress throws In I'm running out of time perhaps after They've made a lengthy statement except On December 11 2018 when representative Ted Poe Republican of Texas demanded a Yes or no from Sundar pachai CEO of Google he wasn't running out of time at All it was just the beginning of his Questions in the tech hearing not at the End which demonstrates that demanding a Yes or no answer can happen at any time Hey we're running out of time for these Introductory sentences in this episode Of c-span's the weekly are we playing Some of the most remarkable yes or no Moments in Congressional hearings yes or No the answer yes Congressional hearings Have several purposes one is to provide Oversight for federal agencies here's an Example well it's our understanding that At least one briefing occurred in December before your decision not to Recuse yourself on December 19th and Christmas Day is that correct uh what's The basis for that question sir Yes or no is it correct I mean I I it is Our understanding that one at least one Briefing occurred between descent Between your decision not to recuse Yourself on December 19th and six days Later Christmas day is that correct Simple enough question yes or no uh Mr Chairman I I again what is the basis for Your question you're saying that it is

Yours I'm asking the questions I only Have five minutes so please answer yes Or no no Mr chairman I'm going to I I Don't I you were asking me a question it Is your understanding can you tell me Where you get the no I'm not going to Tell you that I don't have time to get Into that that was an exchange between New York Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler chair of the house Judiciary Committee and president Trump's acting Attorney general Matthew Whitaker February 8 2019 an oversight hearing Focusing on the Justice Department's Investigation into Russian interference In the 2016 election Here's another exchange from that same Hearing Matthew Whitaker and Texas Democratic congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee prior to the firing of former Attorney General Jeff Stephens did you Discuss or share your private opinions Of the special counsel investigation With the chief of staff from family Members and others yes or no As I've previously answered Congress yes or no sir As I previously answered congresswoman I Have not yes or no As I previously answered congresswoman I Have not discussed and since you're Appointed acting attorney general did You discuss or share your private Opinions with the special counsel

Again the special counsel's Investigation is an ongoing Investigation and I don't I have nothing More to say than what I've already so You are denying reports that you shared Many one-on-one calls with President Trump and his then Chief of Staff John Kelly when Jeff sessions was still Attorney General Again congressman is there someone that Provides you the basis for that question Or is that a anonymously Source I am Asking the question sir Answer the question yes or no Could you repeat the question please So you are denying the reports that you Shared many one-on-one calls with President Trump and then his chief of Staff John Kelly are you denying that Yes or no congresswoman as I've Mentioned several times today in my Opening statement and otherwise yes or No not talking about the conversations That I've had with the president United States or senior staff Um so that is a no I don't think you can Assume anything from that here's one From ascended hearing a yes or no Question from Senator Roger Marshall Republican from Kansas at a January 11 2022 covid hearing that expanded into a Heated exchange with Dr Anthony fauci as The highest paid employee in the entire Federal government yes or no would you

Be willing to submit to Congress and the Public a financial disclosure that Includes your past and current Investments after all your colleague Dr Wolinski and every member of Congress Submits a financial disclosure that Includes their Investments I don't understand why you're asking me That question my financial disclosure is Public knowledge and has been so for the Last 37 years or so of 35 years big Tech Giants are doing an incredible job of Keeping it from being public uh we'll Continue to look for it where would we Find it all you have to do is ask for it You're so misinformed it's extraordinary Why am I misinformed this is a huge Issue wouldn't you agree with me that That you have a you see things before Members of Congress would see him so That there's a an air of appearance that That maybe some Shenanigans are going on You know I don't think that's I assume That that's not the case are you talking About the case my financial disclosures Are public knowledge and have been so You are getting amazingly wrong Information Another oversight hearing April 28 2022 The house Judiciary Committee is hearing From Biden Administration Homeland Security secretary Alejandro mayorkas Here's Texas Republican representative Chip Roy I think the chairman uh Mr

Secretary there have been over 1 million Plus individuals put into proceedings or Released into the United States on your Watch I've asked multiple border patrol Personnel not the union mind you if we Double triple quadruple the CBP budget Would that one million release go down And they categorically said no it would Go up do you agree yes or no I'm not Sure I understand your question Congressman the number of people being Released in the United States under Current law would it go down no matter How much you increase your budget Um and it would not as they said do you Agree yes or no Congressman if I Understand your question correctly when Individuals are in the United States and They make a claim for Asylum the number Would not go down is the answer right Yes or no that's what they said and I Think you've just answered it would not Go down the only plan that you offer the Plan you just offered is to process Aliens faster encourage more to come Representative John Dingle Democrat from Michigan was a master of the yes or no Question during a November 3rd 2011 House Energy and Commerce oversight Hearing representative Dingle did not Get an immediate yes or no answer from a Witness so he adopted a strategy he Talked louder these are yes or no Questions uh Council have you included

The minority staff in any and all Meetings with members of doe OMB and White House yes or no I'm sorry sir can You repeat that again I couldn't hear You have you included minority staff in Any and all meetings with members of doe Doesn't require a lot of thought yes or No Yes sir another purpose for Congressional hearings in the Senate They are the Cornerstone of the Confirmation process for executive Branch nominees here's a yes or no Exchange from September 27 2018. New Jersey Democratic senator Cory Booker is Questioning president Trump's nominee to The Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh judge Kavanaugh Um you drank on weekdays as well in high School not just weekends It's on weekdays yes sir uh I'd say That's rare are you talking about during The school year I'm talking about the Calendars that you provided during these Dates that's in the in the summer after A football workout when we went over to You drank on weekdays yes or no sir Uh in the summer When we went over to Timmy's house on July 1st that would indicate yes yes in Other words that that July 1st reference To skis went over for skis that's Brewskis correct and after Tobin sir sir I just needed yes or no that Brewsky's

Right well I need to explain in context You just said sir that you drank on Weekdays that's all I was looking for Well no by mate if I may ask the next Question sir here's another yes or no Exchange from the same hearing this time Brett Kavanaugh is questioned by Democratic California Senator Kamala Harris I'm just asking are you willing To ask the white house to conduct such An investigation because as you are Aware the FBI did conduct a background Investigation Into you before we were aware of these Most recent allegations so are you Willing to ask the white house to do That and say yes or no and then we can Move on I've had six background Investigations over 26 years as it Relates to the recent allegations are You willing to have them do it did the Witness testimonies before you no Witness who was there Supports that I was there okay I'm going To take that as a no and we can move on Let's do another clip of Senator Kamala Harris demanding a yes or no from a Trump nominee from a few months before The Kavanaugh hearing May 9 2018 the Senate intelligence committee is hearing From Gina haspel president Trump's Nominee to head the CIA do you believe That the previous interrogation Techniques were immoral

[Music] Senator I believe that CIA officers to Whom you referred it's a yes or no Answer do you believe the previous Interrogation techniques were immoral I'm not asking do you believe they were Legal I'm asking do you believe they Were immoral Senator I believe that CIA Is extraordinary work to prevent another Attack on this country given the legal Tools that we were authorized please Answer yes or no do you believe in Hindsight That those techniques were immoral Senator what I believe sitting here Today is that I support the higher moral Standard we have decided to hold Ourselves please answer the question Senator I I think I've answered the Question no you've not do you believe The previous techniques Now armed with hindsight Do you believe they were immoral yes or No Senator I believe that we should hold Ourselves to the moral standard outlined In the army field menu Okay so I understand that you're you've Not answered the question but I'm going To move on and just like some answers Might not cleanly fit into a binary yes Or no sometimes what seems like a Question isn't a question at all we Returned one more time to the 2019 has

Judiciary Committee oversight hearing With President Trump's acting attorney General Matthew Whitaker here's Democratic New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries I'm confused I really am We're all trying to figure out who are You Where did you come from and how the heck Did you become the head of the Department of Justice so hopefully you Can help me work through this confusion All right well I'm I mean Congressman Not Mr Whitaker that was a statement not A question I'm assume you know the Difference here's another example of Mistaking a statement for a question June 20th 2014 the house Ways and Means Committee the witness IRS commissioner John koskinen the questioner Republican Representative from Wisconsin Paul Ryan Monday our investigators ask your agency Whether any other hard drives crash and We learned that six other hard drives of The people we're investigating were Involved you didn't tell us that we told You on Monday on Monday and what did you Do with it because we asked you right And what did you do with that Information you told us on Monday Because we asked you whether any other Hard drives crash this is unbelievable You told us on May you were going to Give us all of Lois learner's emails and You learned in February that this

Crashed I did not learn in February was A crash on YouTube on Monday I'm not Asking you a question I'm just making a Statement my apologies you are the Internal Revenue Service You can reach into the lives of Hard-working taxpayers and with a phone Call an email or a letter you can turn Their lives upside down but don't worry IRS commissioner koskinen did get a yes Or no question in that 2014 hearing Here's ways and means committee chairman Dave Camp republican from Michigan so For the sake of the agency and to Restore the trust of the American people Will you support the appointment of a Special prosecutor there are six Investigations going on of this event Yes or no the IG is already Investigating can you give a definitive Answer to this committee yes or no do You support the appointment of a special Prosecutor I do I'm controlling the time I'm asking a Question that can have a simple yes or No answer control the answer I think Regular order I think the appointment of A special prosecutor after the six Investigations aren't gone going and the IG investigation into this matter Ongoing would be a Monumental waste of Taxpayer funds so is that a yes or a no That's a no thank you another purpose of A congressional hearing collect

Information to use to draft and improve Legislation An example of yes or no questions for That type of hearing from October 30th 2013 a house hearing on implementing the Affordable Care Act two kansans are Going at it the witness former Democratic Kansas Governor then Obama HS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius the Questioner Republican congressman from Kansas Mike Pompeo to use your words you Say these were I think you said lousy Plans Miss taverner said not true Insurance you think that the plans that Were offered when you were the insurance Commissioner weren't true Insurance in The individual Market the insurance Commissioner in Kansas and virtually Every place in the country does not have Regulations Were they true insurance plans a lot of Them are not true Insurance funds thank You going back further November 2nd 2007 A house hearing on the banking industry And mortgage foreclosures the witness From the Bush Administration Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Brian Montgomery the Questioner the Democratic chairman of The house Financial Services committee Barney Frank what's your answer to the Question sir I think we're doing that Today I mean if I'm a lower income High-risk family that cannot use FHA

Today if someone says by paying eight or Nine dollars more no Miss Montgomery you Know you're deliberately not answering It you know better The question assuming we're going to Help people who are a weaker credit And assuming that that means that Somebody has to pay for a higher default Rate Should that cost be born only by all the People in that sub-category of weaker Credit or should that cost be borne by All of those getting MIP it's borne by Everyone sir no Mr Montgomery please Answer the question today's premium sir Everybody that's the beauty of this Program it's not a handout everybody Pays premiums yes and Mr Montgomery you Want to attract some some lower risk Borrowers and all of these are lower Income sir the average income of our bar Is fifty five thousand dollars it's not Coming you know I know that stop types Of Borrowers you will stop filibustering This is appalling we agree to all of That we agree that we're going to reach People more we're going to stay here Till you answer the question yes or no It didn't get any quieter for another HUD official in the next Republican Administration president Trump's HUD Secretary Ben Carson May 21st 2019 Discussing housing policy with the Majority Democratic house Financial

Services committee we'll play two clips From that hearing first Ben Carson and Representative David Scott Democrat of Georgia are you all still planning to Zero out the budget For the cbdg program yes or no let me Just say I don't think we ever need to go to Battle regardless of anything having Said that you know as I've said before The cdb cdbg program has been helpful in Many cases no I I know my time is short But are have you moved away from zeroing Out that budget yes or no It's not a yes or no question yes it is You just want to make it into a battle It doesn't need to no I want a yes or no Answer either going to do it or you're Not and second here's secretary Ben Carson and representative Ayanna Presley Democrat of Massachusetts and check out Carson switching it up and getting in His own yes or no question yes or no if Less left unaddressed do you believe the Substandard public housing conditions Pose a risk to tenants physical mental And emotional health if left unaddressed Yes or no can you ask me some questions Yourself you don't get to dictate what My line of questioning is reclaiming my Time you're a very smart so you Understand the question please answer it Yes or no if left unaddressed which I Believe they are unaddressed because

This budget does not reflect the need do You believe the substandard public Housing conditions pose a risk to Tenants physical mental and emotional Health Uh you already know the answer to that Yes or no You know the answer yes or no I Sir do you Reclaiming my time you don't do that the Time belongs to the gentle lady some Issues discussed in Congressional Hearings might be complicated some might Require thoughtful deliberative Intellectual explanation but on March 25th 2021 there didn't seem to be much Time for nuance and Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on combating online Misinformation and disinformation the Witnesses were top social media execs Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook Jack Dorsey from Twitter and the exec we Heard at the beginning Sundar pichai of Google here's chairman Mike Doyle Democrat from Pennsylvania okay Gentlemen my time is short and I ask That you make your responses as brief And to the point as possible uh if I ask You a yes or no question I'm just Looking for a yes or no so please Respond appropriately I want to start by Asking all three of you Um if your platform Bears some Responsibility for disseminating

Disinformation related to the election And the stop to steal movement that led To the attack on the capitol just a yes Or no answer Mr Zuckerberg Chairman I think our responsibility is To build systems that can help I just Want to yes no answer okay yes or no do You do you bear some responsibility for What happened Congressman our responsibility is to Make sure that we build effective Systems Is not to answer the question uh Mr Pachai yes or no Oh we always feel a deep sense of Responsibility but I think we worked Hard uh this election effort was one of Our most substantive efforts is that a Yes or a no Uh Congressman it's a complex question Uh we okay we'll move on uh Mr Dorsey Yes but you also have to take into Consideration a broader ecosystem it's Not just about the technology platforms We use thank you representative Billy Long a republican from Missouri also Asked the three Tech execs a yes or no Question but his had a twist it was a Yes or no question about yes or no Mr Patai I'm going to ask you a yes or no Question and just tell me if you know The difference in these two words Yes and no

Yes yes Mr Zuckerberg fun question for you do You know the difference in yes and no Yes congressman And Mr Dorsey same question for you do You know the difference in two words yes Or no Yes I'm sorry Yes yes I know the difference Okay thank you I just I want a steak Dinner there from one where my Colleagues they didn't think I could get You all answered all three of the answer Yes or no questions I did it two and a Half hours into that five hour hearing Twitter's Jack Dorsey tweeted a poll the Poll was just a question mark with the Words yes or no It got over a hundred thousand votes the Final tally yes beat no 64 to 36 percent The poll got noticed by representative Kathleen Rice Democrat of New York who When it was her turn to ask questions Looked annoyed Mr Dorsey what is winning Yes or no on your Twitter account poll Yes Hmm your multitasking skills are quite Impressive in the end that question About yes or no could not have been Answered yes or no you've heard senators And representatives demand of witnesses Speedy yes and no answers but what's it Like to be on the receiving end of that

Treatment For the perspective of one person who Has gone through the process we borrow From another C-SPAN podcast book notes Plus a recent interview with Judy Shelton president Trump nominated her to Serve on the board of the Federal Reserve Judy Shelton's selection to the board Was controversial and eventually President Biden's Administration Withdrew her nomination But she did go through a senate Confirmation hearing by the way you Mentioned this earlier the five-minute Rule in the Senate Watching we've done it for years we've Been doing this for 43 years when you Watch it the five-minute rule comes up Every time somebody testifies you watch The members begin to push push push to Get an answer quicker quicker quicker I Just want a yes or a no what's it feel Like sitting in the chair when you know They only have five minutes Well I guess you get a little bit Um cynical as you get used to it because Some of them spend uh four minutes and 40 seconds making a speech that may or May not have much to do with with the Issues at hand in terms of of your Suitability to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Um uh some of some of it I would say is

A form of bullying which I wouldn't mind If I thought it was honest intellectual Discussion But Um if you're pressed into yes or no yes Or no without uh being able to explain Your reasoning or given a hypothetical Um that that you first have to wrap your Mind around and say wait what are you Suggesting because if you're saying There's this and this what about this And that and they're just saying nope What would you do and I thought without Context Um you you find yourself kind of backing Up backing up and then the next thing You know Um there's some pithy statement and it's Over that that was that was Um demoralizing And now a bonus clip think members of Congress just want yes or no's from Witnesses well one time during a hearing A member of Congress wanted a yes or no Answer from a member of Congress January 12 2021 the house rules Committee debated a resolution to remove President Trump from Office here's Representative Ed Perlmutter a Democrat From Colorado and representative Jim Jordan Republican of Ohio isn't it true That Joe Biden won the election Uh yes he's going to be president Um and I've I've never said as the as

The chairman indicated earlier I've Never said that this election was Stolen what I've said very clearly is Half the electorate do you have the Electorate both Republicans and Democrats have concerns and I hope for An investigation Mr Jordan Mr Jordan it Was a simple question Isn't it true Joe Biden won the election Yes or no Yes I mean I I don't know how many times You have to say it okay one but there Are serious problems with this election That deserve an investigation and that's What I've called for and it's not just Republicans who think that okay Countless number of Democrats think that This thing had problems too important End of story A third of the well when you ask me a Question I gotta give us an answer I did My answer yes Or no questions please we're trying to Bring this nation back together Jim jeez That's it for this episode of c-span's Weekly now we're running out of time so Yes or no can you do your own searches In the C-SPAN video library yes do you Simply go to c-spin.org and use that Happy search bar on top yes is it free Easy and loads of fun yes yes yes see It's not that hard to answer yes or no Questions after all thanks for listening And happy searching

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