Key Senate Democrat suggests that he didn't read entire healthcare reform bill

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), one of the chief authors of the healthcare law, suggested Tuesday he did not read the entire piece of legislation.

Speaking at a forum in his home state, Baucus and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were asked by an audience member if they had read the whole bill and if not, that is the most despicable, irresponsible thing.” 

“I don’t think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the healthcare bill, Baucus said, according to the Flathead BeaconYou know why? It’s statutory language. ... We hire experts.

Republicans, who opposed the law in lockstep, frequently criticized Democrats for the length of the bill and often pressed members if they had read the legislation or not. In March, Congress passed the legislation and President Obama signed the 961-page final bill into law.

At least one Democratic lawmaker, Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) made a public showing of reading the bill.

Democrats dismissed the criticism, saying it did not have anything do to with the contents of the legislation. 

Baucus's office said that his comments did not mean that he does not know what it is in the law.

"Senator Baucus wrote the bill that passed the Finance Committee and then worked with his colleagues to write the health care bill that is law today. He has spent years crafting this policy and hundreds of hours reading and perfecting it," spokeswoman Erin Shields said. "There is simply no question that he understands the provisions in the health care law and knows it is a historic improvement that will make our health care system more affordable and accessible for families in Montana and across America."

Baucus held frequent hearings and published multiple reports about the legislation during the process of its passage.

At the town-hall event, Baucus defended the sweeping law.

“It’s not perfect, nothing’s perfect, but I’m telling you, ma’am, it’s a good start,” Baucus said. “Mark my words, several years from now you’re going to look back and say, ‘Eh, maybe it isn’t so bad.’ ”

-- This post was updated at 2:40 p.m.

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