Immigration Reform Bill Has Too Many Words (But At Least They're in English)

| Mon Jun. 24, 2013 11:40 AM EDT

Is the Senate's immigration reform bill really a mammoth 1,200 pages long? Paul Waldman tries to tell us it's not: "Bills in Congress are printed with huge margins and double-spaced, with lots of indentations to boot....So you can say 'It's 1,200 pages long!', but that probably equates to about as many words as a book that's 3 or 400 pages long."

That's....just not going to work. I suspect that even Paul agrees it's a hopeless argument. But the real question is why this has become such a favorite gripe from the tea party set. I mean, who cares how long a bill is? If you don't like immigration reform, you don't like immigration reform. You still wouldn't like it if the bill were 20 pages long instead of 1,200. So why the newfound obsession over bill length? Here are a few guesses:

  • They're convinced that the only reason a bill could be so long is to hide stuff in the nooks and crannies. A 1,200-page bill probably has a clause in there giving immigrants free Obamaphones for life, but it's so cleverly disguised that no one will ever notice.
  • It's part of the general tea party longing for a simpler age. Laws didn't used to be so long, after all, and America got along fine. Hell, the entire Constitution fits on one page!
  • Generally speaking, a long bill does more than a short bill. It provides more hooks for government regulation and expansion of federal power, both of which conservatives oppose.
  • It just sounds good.

Of course, it's worth pointing out that conservatives were also pretty unhappy with the original TARP bill, which clocked in at a svelte three pages. It was, they said, a "blank check." (Lots of liberals agreed.) Given this, you can conclude either (a) there's a sweet spot of about 100 pages that tea partiers consider a Platonic ideal for bills, or (b) they don't like certain bills, and length is just a red herring. I'm going with option B for the moment.