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Legislation inflation grips GOP

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Associated Press
November 24, 2009

Republicans love to get their hands on the Democrats' health care legislation. They show it to the cameras at every opportunity, even piling one version on top of another to make a big pile look even bigger.


Although they complain they don't have time to read all of it, they found the time to tape it together, page by page, so they could roll it up the steps of the Capitol like super-sized toilet paper and show how very long it is.


It surely is long. But, no, not longer than "War and Peace," as they claim.


No one really expects brevity when reinventing something as complex and huge as the nation's health insurance system, which accounts for one-sixth of the economy. Indeed, legislation of comparable size was used to redefine an area of much more limited federal responsibility, education. That was the No Child Left Behind Act from the agenda of Republican President George W. Bush.


Size only matters in the health care debate because Republicans have turned the length of the legislation into a symbol: Big, unwieldy bill means big, overreaching government. Even bigger when you display double-spaced copies with double-wide margins and large print.


As if he risked a hernia carrying it any other way, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa was seen hoisting such a copy of the House Democratic bill on his shoulder, the package trussed in a sturdy rope. GOP Rep. John Culberson of Texas brought a copy to a Capitol Hill rally and threw its loose pages to the crowd, like meat to lions.


During the weekend vote to bring the Senate health bill to full debate, five Republican senators displayed the massive legislation on their desks and one of them, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, piled the House and Senate bills together to represent a nightmarishly bureaucratic double-whammy.


The actual bill, which Senate Majority Leader Harry introduced last week, came in at 2,074 double-spaced pages, 84 more pages than the House version, which was already being ridiculed for its size.


"That's larger than the novel 'War and Peace,'" Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said of the Senate bill.


"Exceeding even 'War and Peace' in length," Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said of the House bill.


Said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas: "'War and Peace' some people consider it the greatest book ever written, but most people recognize the novel because at 1,284 pages its length is often the butt of jokes. Now imagine trying to read something that long overnight."


Actually, Leo Tolstoy's tome is longer than either bill. Full translated versions are nearly twice as long.


The bill passed by the House is 319,145 words. The Senate bill is 318,512 words, shorter than the House version despite consuming more paper. Various versions of Tolstoy's novel are 560,000 to 670,000 words. Bush's education act tallied more than 280,000 words.


By now, the full draft of Reid's bill that had circulated in the corridors and landed so prominently on Republican desks has been published in the Congressional Record in the official and conventional manner.


The type is small and tight. No hernias will be caused by moving this rendering of the bill around. Unfurling it on the Capitol steps would not be much of a spectacle.


It's 209 pages.


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Associated Press writer Ann Sanner contributed to this report.



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