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Don’t be swayed by phonus balonus rhetoric about how long certain congresional bills are

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Steve Benen NAILS IT:

When opponents of a bill are reduced to talking about the literal, physical size of the legislation, they’ve completely given up on the pretense that public policy matters. If opponents of immigration reform want to debate the merits of the proposal, great. But focusing on pages and pounds is the absolute worst form of debate.

This came up quite a big during the fight over health care reform — it was easier for the right to count the number of pages in the Affordable Care Act than debate it on the merits — so let’s review the basics.

Sometimes, when professional lawmakers and their staffs address national needs, their proposals get pretty long. That’s to be expected. We live in an advanced, 21st-century superpower, and legislation often deals with complex issues. Bills aren’t really prepared for a lay audience anyway — they’re filled with technical and legal jargon, which is necessary for it to be implemented as intended.

It’s not unique to lawmaking, either. When automotive companies design new cars, the schematics aren’t short. When scientific researchers publish studies on life-saving medication, their reports aren’t brief, either. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the research or the schematics.

What’s more, there’s something about the nature of legislation that folks sometimes forget.


If you’ve ever seen the physical page of a bill in Congress, you know that it doesn’t look like a traditional printed page. There are huge margins, a large font, and everything is double-spaced. Legislation may look enormous, but be fairly manageable.

For example, if the immigration bill is about 1,075 pages, in terms of the number of words, it’s about half the length of Sarah Palin’s first book. And while I confess that I did not read “Going Rogue,” I think it’s fair to say it was not an endless tome.

So why does this talk persist? I think it speaks to the post-policy anti-intellectualism that too often plays a role in conservative commentary. Big bills must be bad bills because they’re, you know, big.

It’s absurd.

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3 Comments

  1. expdoc

    Yeah! Settle down people. We will pass it and then we will read all those big words to figure out what is in it.

  2. Pat, I trust you are aware of the connectivity issues Applesauce is having… seems to be isolated to the e-rockford.com domain, although the other blogs load just fine.

    Routing all this traffic through the NSA servers must be the root cause.

    Wink!

  3. Luke: Thanks for the message about “connectivity issues.”

    I’ve had major problems in that regard in recent days, and our crackerjack Applesauce techies are working on the matter even as we speak.

    It’s really quite a hassle, and I seriously fear that it’s depressed readership of this blog of late.

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