A Review of Congressional Hearings (Week 9)

I reviewed two C-SPAN videos, the IRS commissioner Impeachment which follows the story of IRS commissioner John Koskinen’s impeachment hearing on government misconduct. This was motivated by Ohio congressman and other conservatives in the GOP who believe that Koskinen allowed subpoenaed emails to be destroyed as well as remaining silent to congress about their destruction until months later. The video of the hearing starts off with Bob GoodLatte Virginia Representative and chair of the Judiciary committee giving an overview of the three branches of government as well as checks and balances and how their purpose revolves around making sure one branch of government doesn’t become overly powerful and abuse their power which is what many conservatives were currently accusing John Koskinen of. Koskinen and other members of the IRS were also being accused of “playing politics” in their investigations aka overly scrutinizing conservative groups over other government groups, this accusation was leveled by Ohio Representative Steve Chabot. The second video I reviewed was concerning the rapidly increasing prices of the EpiPen an injection containing the chemical epinephrine which is used to treat severe asthma attacks but more commonly allergic reactions, pharmaceutical company Mylan INC raised the price of the EpiPen by over 500% going from a two-pack selling at around $100 in the year 2009 to a skyrocketing $600 for a two pack in the year 2016. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Chair of the Oversight and Government Reform begins the video mapping out the importance of the EpiPen and how vital this medicine is for the people using it and shouldn’t be marketed on the mere financial benefits it yields for the big pharmaceutical companies. Heather Bresch CEO of Mylan INC argued in defense of the raised prices by reminding congress of Mylan’s pharmaceutical reach in the US and how they are making strides to make their other products more affordable for American citizens. While both of these videos focus on wildly different concepts at their core they share the same message which is preventing the abuse and misshaping of power by a sole power or group. While the investigation into John Koskinen and the allegations of governmental misconduct leveled against him was an actual impeachment trial the condemning rhetoric when members of congress were questioning Heather Bresch the CEO of Mylan Inc. was quite similar. Both videos encapsulated a very formal, rigid procedure. While Koskinen’s trial seemed as more of a laundry list of allegations Bresch’s trial was much more of an interrogation with questions being blatantly asked and expected to be answered. Based merely off the context around each of these videos I found that while morality or lack thereof in both John Koskinen and Heather Bresch as an extension of Mylan Inc. was the driving force behind both of these investigations. With that being said the committee members in both of these videos used starkly different persuasive techniques and rhetorical approaches to getting their points across. In the impeachment trial of IRS commissioner John Koskinen the committee members addressing the accusations against Mr. Koskinen utilized the Ethos mode of persuasion. What I mean by this is that while there were one or two members questioning Koskinen from an emotional place the majority members tried to appeal to the ethical shortcomings of the defendant. This was done most obviously by the beginning discussion of the checks and balances system to our branches of government and how it our government’s job to make sure no one power is being abused or used for self gain that argument appeals to the moral ethical side of our minds and reveals the inherent lack of morality in a person as opposed to how we emotionally process them. In the video about the rapid uptick in prices of the EpiPen committee utilized both the pathos and logos modes of persuasion. Before the interrogation of Heather Bresch began an overview of the situation was given. This overview appealed to the more emotional side of the argument before grappling anything further. Utah representative Jason Chaffetz does an excellent job of this form of persuasion by highlighting the amount of people primarily children who need this medication and how not having it would be more than a mild inconvenience it could even kill them this framed the issue as more of a necessity than a preference it forced the opposition namely Mylan Inc. to reexamine the issue. When the actual interrogation began and questions of how much Mylan Inc had in expenditures by Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings the video reached the logos side of the persuasion technique. The rapid fire questioning technique with massive scrutiny on Heather Bresch’s responses framed the situation in the logos or logical manner. Poking holes in Bresch as an extension of Mylan Inc allows other committee members to be swayed to the opposing side of their views. The political framings of both the IRS commissioner Impeachment case and the interrogation of Mylan Inc. were noticeably different. While different infractions and accusations were lined up against John Koskinen his trial while clearly prioritizing importance of an issue did a good job on not dwelling on any one specific topic rather discuss a litany of topics in brief detail. In the investigative trial of Heather Bresch while accusations weren’t so much being leveled as critiques of actual events currently taking place (the increase in the prices of EpiPens) the trial still managed to focus on the primary issue at hand the prices of this previously more affordable medication and how and why this increase is less of a benefit and more of a drawback for everyone involved. This framing was either done for the obvious reason of the two differing degrees of accusations being leveled against both John Koskinen and Heather Bresch as well as because the impeachment trial against Koskinen was an actual trial with a necessary verdict that was needed to be given while the interrogation against Bresch was already dealing with a specific issue at hand that was current and was less of an accusation and more of a blatant critique of raised prices. Heather Bersch’s situation was one of legal immorality (legal yet morally frowned upon) while Koskinen was one if proven guilty of illegal immorality (scandalized and morally repugnant).

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