Monday, August 24, 2009

GOP congressman says health reform bill is too long

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) says he has read every page of a House health-care reform bill and finds it unacceptable.

His main objection?  It is too long.

He described the package on health reform as a 1,017-page document. He said it was delivered near midnight and put up for debate at 9:30 a.m. the next morning, before many had the chance to read it. Poe said he has read all 1,017 pages.

It is longer than War and Peace and not near as funny, said Poe.

First things first.  Matt Yglesias points out that at 1,017 pages, the bill Poe is referring to is not, in fact, longer than War and Peace.

I have not read all 1,107 pages of the bill since that's not actually an enlightening way to understand legislation. I have, however, read War and Peace and it's longer than that. The Signet Classics edition is 1,456 pages. The Vintage Classics edition is 1,296 pages. The Penguin Classics edition is 1,424 pages. Even the relatively brief Norton Critical Edition rolls in at 1,200 pages.

But Poe's lack of familiarity with Tolstoy's tome aside, what does the GOP congressman's criticism even mean?

What does the length of a piece of legislation have to do with its merit?  Isn't the most important thing what a bill says, rather than the number of pages it contains? 

Would Poe be more disposed to support health reform if the Democrats could bring it in under 1,000 pages, regardless of what's in it?

But don't be surprised if this content-free critique actually gains some traction in the media.  The news biz seems to love arbitrary benchmarks, and the villagers might not be able to resist the temptation to challenge Democratic lawmakers to keep all bills at 999 pages or less. 

It wouldn't be any more random than the $1 trillion cap that some in congress have adopted as their only apparent guiding principle on health reform.


panjandrum said...

...unlike Rush Limbaugh's pe... oh never mind