Conservatives: Baucus healthcare bill really, really long

The new message about one version of reform legislation is all about its 1,500 pages

By Alex Koppelman
Published October 20, 2009 4:09AM (UTC)
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No one's going to make a hobby out of reading legislation just for fun. (Well, someone may, but I understand there are drugs that will cure that.) Even by the standards of a normal bill, though, the draft of the healthcare reform bill produced by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and released Monday seems especially daunting, weighing in as it does at 1,502 pages. Conservatives seem to be hoping the page count alone will be enough to scare some people off.

Indeed, ever since the draft was put out late Monday, conservatives have been making a big deal out of the length of the Baucus bill. It got a banner headline on the Drudge Report, some Republicans started compiling lists of things that are shorter than the bill -- according to the Senate GOP's Twitter feed, that includes the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the complete works of Shakespeare and the last two "Harry Potter" books.


Maybe most important, though, is one thing the Republican National Committee's research staff pointed out: The bill is longer than at least one draft of the reform legislation proposed by the Clinton administration.

All of this is pretty meaningless in the real world, of course, but when it comes to politics, these kinds of things can be important. One way opponents were able to score points against the Clinton plan was by attacking it for its length. Most of us don't know how long a normal bill is, how complicated the language is or why legislation tends to take up this much paper; going after the proposal by simply pointing out that it's over 1,500 pages long is a simple, straightforward attack that tends to make people think -- true or not -- that the law would be as complicated and as intrusive as Republicans say it will be.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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