• Tone deaf


    Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) one of the main authors of the new health care law, admitted in a Montana town hall meeting that he did not read the entire 2,400 page piece of legislation, according to the Flathead Beacon.

    Said Baucus: “I don’t think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the health care bill. You know why? It’s statutory language. We hire experts.”

    To anyone who has worked in the U.S. Senate this is not at all surprising but the politics of this line of attack has dogged Democrats for months.

    Yes, it’s long.  Yes, legislators have staffers who read it for them.  Yes, it’s common practice evidently for politicians on both sides of the aisle not to read bills.

    I don’t care.

    This is the most controversial and important piece of legislation likely passed this year.  You’re head of the Senate Finance Committee, which was largely responsible for much of the bill.  You know you’re going to get the question.

    Read the bill.

    It’s not really 2,400 pages.  If you take the bill, which has huge margins, and copy the text into a word document it’s a few hundred pages.  Crack open a beer, put your feet up, and read it.  You have to fly up and back to Montana, right?  Take that down time and read it.  I’m not asking that you understand every single part.  I’m not asking that you have perfect recall.  I’m asking that you spend one night sitting in bed and read the thing so you can say you did.

    I’m sorry – it’s part of the job.

    Know what?  I’ve read the whole bill.  Cover to cover.  I found that I was asked if I read it every single time I talked about the bill.  I got tired of the distraction, and so I read it.

    While you’re at it, please prepare yourself for the follow-up question that is inevitable.   “If you read the bill, you surely know that sub-section blah-blah calls for thus-and-such. That contradicts something you just said. Did you read the bill or not?”

    I’d answer that I don’t have perfect recall, and that no one should be expected to memorize it.  I will be happy to go and double check the section of the bill you are talking about and get back to you.

    Don’t politicians have people to help with this stuff?

    • Aaron –
      Not to be a pessimist, but I don’t think you can understand the bill (or at least the parts that I read) without also being able to look at the Social Security Act (as amended) and the Public Health Service Act. Some of us might know what section 1827 of SSA refers to off the top of our heads, but I, many colleagues and people in industry who deal with this had trouble understanding what various provisions would mean when implemented. I think understanding the implications of the bill is somewhat more difficult than just reading a few hundred pages, even for those with some expertise in Medicare, Medicaid and PHS.