THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD regularly rivals the World Almanac and the Sears, Roebuck catalogue for sheer miscellany. There are reprints of newspaper and magazine articles, poems, long lists of names, summaries of bills and resolutions, texts of various documents, prepared statement and even some speeches. Mixed into this collection in a way that makes its discovery difficult is what purports to be a running account of the happenings each day in the House and Senate. It is never a completely accurate account - members are free to edit and expand their remarks - but it is all we have had. So we are happy to report that starting next Wednesday, finding an account of what actually transpired on the floor of both houses will be a little easier. The new version of the Record is to carry a at the beginning and end of material that was not actualy spoken.
Out first reaction upon seeing in the Record itself the notice of this momentous change was one of joy. We can know what really happened in Congress, we thought, without having been there. But we discovered upon reading the fine print that, as with many governmental reforms, the appearance of change is greater than the reality. If a member delivers orally one sentence of a prepared statement, the entire statement will appear in the Record as if it had been spoken. Or if a member choses to "supplement" what was actually said with a written statement, the new version will appear without the .
Although these and other devices diminish the usefulness of this change, the is a step in the right direction. At least it will make clear that most of the material appearing in the Record was never spoken by a member of Congress. And it will begin to bring the Record a little closer to compliance with the law that says it is to be "substantially a verbatim report of proceedings." Ideally, it ought to contain an accurate verbatim report, with all the rest of its miscellany - which makes it a remarkable source of useful information - clearly identified for what it is. We suspect that kind of a truthful Record will begin to appear not long after the tapes of televised sessions make an accurate report available elsewhere. In the meantime, however, those who scan the Record seeking gems of wisdom and then wondering whether anyone ever heard them will at least have a little better guidance, thanks to the .*