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Big Type = Long Bills

By Matthew Yglesias on November 21, 2009 at 10:01 am

"Big Type = Long Bills"

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The whole thing where members of congress criticize bills for being too long is ridiculous. It just makes no sense whatsoever on its face. But to understand how dishonest it is, you need to actually look at a page in a bill. This, for example, is an actual-size reproduction of a portion of page 58 of the Senate health care bill:

billtext

The bill is long in part because it’s a complicated bill with lots of words in it. But part of the issue is that bills are printed up with large type and a lot of spacing. I’m not exactly sure why they’re formatted this way, but anyone who’s ever worked on the Hill—including Republican members of congress of course—knows this perfectly well.

Yesterday I heard Orrin Hatch say the health care bill is longer than War and Peace or some such. But it’s not. There are just fewer words on each page:

warandpeace

And recall that despite GOP protestations to the contrary, the House bill actually has fewer pages than War and Peace. More to the point, conservatives don’t like the House bill any more than they like the Senate bill even though it’s much shorter. In fact, they like it less—it’s more left-wing. The length of a bill just isn’t a reliable guide to its content. In fact, some of what makes the Senate bill longer is it’s more “moderate” nature—doing Exchanges on a state-by-state basis, for example, requires more words. Providing an opt-out for the public option requires more words.

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