Maybe healthcare reform bill isn't too long after all

Republicans have made a big deal out of the length of Democrats' legislation, but there's some perspective missing

Published November 25, 2009 11:05PM (EST)

It's almost a given at this point: Any time a Congressional Republican's commenting on the Democrats' healthcare reform bills, they'll likely bring up their length. Some will just mention the 2,074 pages in the Senate version, others will tally the amount of dollars spent per word, some will tell you it's longer than "War and Peace." It's a way to suggest that the bill is impenetrable, that Democrats are sneaking big changes into it -- and that it's bound to increase the size of the federal government, not to mention taxes.

Part of what they're saying is true -- the bill is quite long; the House's version is probably the longest produced in the past 10 years. But "War and Peace" is almost twice as wordy, and the Republicans have gotten pretty verbose recently, too.

The Associated Press noted Tuesday that the Senate bill comes in at 318,512 words, while the House's contains 319,145. "War and Peace," by contrast, ranges from 560,000 to 670,000. And when it was taken out of the legislative format and published in the Congressional Record, the Senate version took up only 209 pages. also did some analysis of the measure, especially as compared to other legislation from the past 10 years. Turns out five of the ten longest bills in that period were written by Republicans.

In fact, while the House's healthcare reform proposal was the longest, a bill authored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, was only 68 words behind. A 2005 appropriations bill sponsored by Rep. James Kolbe, R-Ariz., came in fourth at 296,111 words and one of the centerpieces of former President Bush's agenda, the No Child Left Behind Act, was sixth behind the strength of its 274,559 words. Minority Leader John Boehner, now spearheading the message that the Democrats' bills are too hefty, was the sponsor.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform U.s. House Of Representatives U.s. Senate War Room