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“Deliberative Disagreement” in U.S. Health Policy Committee Hearings



The exchange of rationales among debate participants is necessary for legitimacy in a deliberative democracy. I show that witnesses in congressional committee hearings tend to use falsifiable rationales when they encounter moderate levels of disagreement and shift to nonfalsifiable rationales when they encounter extreme disagreement. I use data from a coding of hearings testimony on the Medicare program, held between 1990 and 2003, as well as from a survey of participating witnesses measuring their perceptions of disagreement at the hearing. The results identify conditions that enhance falsifiable discourse and help to establish the empirical grounding deliberative democratic theory.