Media echo GOP's fixation on size of House health care reform bill

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Following the release of the House Democrats' health care reform bill, the leaders of the House Republican caucus repeatedly stressed the length and size of the bill during an October 29 press conference. Numerous media figures and outlets have followed in lockstep, with the Politico's Jonathan Allen asserting that the bill "comes out to about $2.24 million per word," and Sean Hannity claiming that "if you can't put this down in 30 pages or less, it proves that this is a complicated, you know, bunch of bureaucratic garbage."

House Republicans harp on length of House bill

Boehner issues statement on "Speaker Pelosi's 1,990-Page Government Takeover of Health Care." House Minority Leader John Boehner stated on October 29 that "[t]he fact that it weighs in at nearly 2,000 pages -- more than 620 pages longer than the government takeover of health care Hillary Clinton proposed in 1993 -- is as good an indication as any of just how costly and unsustainable Speaker Pelosi's proposal is."

Barton: "[T]hat's about four reams of paper." Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) stated at the October 29 Republican leadership press conference, "I would say, 1,990 pages -- that's about four reams of paper. I would say that the people getting reamed are the American people."

Pence: "[T]his legislation actually uses the word 'shall' 3,425 times." Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) stated during the press conference: "After weeks of backroom negotiations, now the Democrats have emerged with a bill that isn't a thousand pages; it's 1,990 pages. It isn't just the mandates included in the last bill, but this legislation actually uses the world 'shall' 3,425 times. The American people don't want to see a mountain range of taxes and mandates and debt burdened on this generation and the next."

Blunt: "I've sponsored nine bills ... I don't think any of them are 100 pages long." Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) stated during the press conference that "one of the things we heard, beginning with the 1,056-page stimulus bill, is let's see what's in the bill. Let's talk about what's in the bill. And Republicans have a lot of -- a lot of bills out there. I don't think any of the -- I've sponsored nine bills, nine different bills. I don't think any of them are 100 pages long." He later added, " 'Shall' over 3,000 times sounds like a pretty significant government intervention in health care."

Cantor: Do the people believe this "nearly 2,000-page bill is not going to explode the federal deficit? I don't think so." Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) stated at the press conference, "Do the American people really believe this bill -- this nearly 2,000-page bill -- is not going to explode the federal deficit? I don't think so." As he spoke, Cantor held up the bill.

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Media parrot House GOP talking points on size of bill

Politico does entire story on physical appearance of the bill. In an article headlined, "House health bill clocks in at 1,990 pages," Politico writer Jonathan Allen wrote, "It runs more pages than War and Peace, has nearly five times as many words as the Torah, and its tables of contents alone run far longer than this story." Allen added, "The House health care bill unveiled Thursday clocks in at 1,990 pages and about 400,000 words. With an estimated 10-year cost of $894 billion, that comes out to about $2.24 million per word." He further reported Republican concerns about the weight and height of the bill. [Politico, 10/29/09]

Hannity: "[I]f you can't put this down in 30 pages or less, it proves that this is a complicated, you know, bunch of bureaucratic garbage." Fox News host Sean Hannity stated of the bill, a copy of which he had on set, "My gosh, I could work out with this." He added, "Nineteen hundred pages. That -- if you can't put this down in 30 pages or less, it proves that this is a complicated, you know, bunch of bureaucratic garbage." During the program, conservative columnist S.E. Cupp stated of the bill, "It's longer than War and Peace. It's longer than Atlas Shrugged. And it's longer than Les Mis."

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Drudge Report: "$2.2M A WORD." With the headline, "$2.2M A WORD," the Drudge Report highlighted Allen's Politico article. Drudge also featured the headline, "Pelosi's biggest one yet! 1,990 pages," which linked to a Politico blog post that did not mention the length of the bill but reported on "[a]n anti-Pelosi activist" who called Pelosi a Nazi. A third Drudge link stated, "Boehner: '1,990 Pages of Bureaucracy,' " and linked to a clip of Boehner's press conference. The following headlines were posted on the Drudge Report on October 30:

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Dobbs: "Pelosi's massive government takeover of the health care system -- here it is, 1,990 pages of it." CNN host Lou Dobbs stated, "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's massive government takeover of the health care system -- here it is, 1,990 pages of it, at least $1 trillion, and that's the first estimate." He had on set copies of the House and Senate Finance Committee bills and later added, "I think it's really important we be straightforward and honest with everyone watching us right now and listening to us. This is 1,000 -- if we can show this -- 1,992 pages. This is House Bill 3962. This is Senate 1796. It is -- it's crazy. This is 1,502 pages here under my left hand."

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Cafferty: "Look at that thing. ... [Y]ou need a truss just to carry that out of the office." Jack Cafferty stated on CNN's The Situation Room, "It's 2,000 pages long. And that's the one in the House. They've got another one -- there's John Boehner with a copy of that legislation. Look at that thing. You could hardly -- you need a truss just to carry that out of the office." He added that "the original legislation creating Social Security -- it was called the 1935 Economic Security Act. It was 64 pages long. The question this hour is -- we'll have more on this, by the way, tomorrow. We're working on a little something."

Fox & Friends hosts four reams of blank paper. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy had a crew member carry a stack of paper on set and stated of the House bill, "It's 1,990 pages. We have not printed it out, because we didn't want to go through a couple of printers. But it is effectively four reams of paper. It weighs 20 pounds. It's a foot tall. ... Extraordinarily, with the 400,000 words -- I think it was Politico that averaged it costs us $2.2 million per word what's in this thing." Guest host Alyson Camerota also stated, "How can you lift this?" and later added, "Unbelievable the price tag and the reams of paper that are clearly killing some rain forest somewhere."

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NY Post "editorial," "2,000 pages of ObamaCare costs," is just a Boehner quote. The New York Post published an editorial titled, "2,000 pages of ObamaCare costs." However, the "editorial" consisted of a photo of Pelosi and a quote from Boehner stating, in part, that "[t]he fact that it weighs in at nearly 2,000 pages -- more than 620 pages longer than the government takeover of health care Hillary Clinton proposed in 1993 -- is as good an indication as any of just how costly and unsustainable Speaker Pelosi's proposal is." [New York Post, 10/30/09] From the New York Post on October 30:

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Charles Hurt: "[B]ill uses the word 'shall' 3,425 times." In a New York Post column, Charles Hurt echoed Pence, writing: "At nearly 2,000 pages, this latest bill uses the word 'shall' 3,425 times. In other words, it's just another massive bill where the feds tell people what to do on every page." [New York Post, 10/30/09]

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