The GOP has been making great hay out of the length and size and weight and page count of the House Health Care Reform bill. Apparently intimidated by its length, this has put them in this weird oppositional position where they have been insisting that the bill be read while simultaneously attesting to the impossibility of the task. To be sure, the bill looks difficult to tote around -- though Betsy McCaughey's been managing just fine!
Well, as it turns out, the physical bulk of the printed bill conceals an inconvenient truth: it's really not that long a read. The good people at Computational Legal Studies have analyzed the bill, and their findings tend to demonstrate that the GOP is vastly overselling the daunting nature of the task:
Those versed in the typesetting practices of the United States Congress know that the printed version of a bill contains a significant amount of whitespace including non-trivial space between lines, large headers and margins, an embedded table of contents, and large font. For example, consider page 12 of the printed version of H.R. 3962. This page contains fewer than 150 substantive words.
We believe a simple page count vastly overstates the actual length of bill. Rather than use page counts, we counted the number of words contained in the bill and compared these counts to the number of words in the existing United States Code. In addition, we consider the number of text blocks in the bill- where a text block is a unit of text under a section, subsection, clause, or sub-clause.
According to their basic findings, the total number of words in the House Health Reform Bill are 363,086. That includes the words found in titles, tables of contents and the like. The number of "words affecting in H.R. 3962 impacting substantive law" total out to be 234,812.
To be sure, that's a long bill! The 2007 Energy Bill had only 157,835 words, and the 2010 Defense Authorization Act is a trim 119,960 words. But as Computational Legal Studies points out, the total word count of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix is 257,000 words. Granted, it's a more exciting read, but the task of reading that book is something that even small children have proven themselves capable of mastering.
Maybe if we just renamed the bill Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Pre-Existing Conditions, everyone could just get on with it, and stop bitching about how hard legislating is.