Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBottom line Overnight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor MORE (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 SebeliusKathleen SebeliusJerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Mark Halperin inks book deal 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE 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.

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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 McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillHow Citizens United altered America's political landscape #MidnightMoscowMitch trends amid criticism of McConnell's proposed impeachment trial rules The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (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.