(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
They pile it high on desks, hoist it on a shoulder trussed in sturdy rope and tell people it's longer than "War and Peace," which it isn't.
Although they complain they don't have time to read all of it, they found the time to tape it together, page by page, so they could roll it up the steps of the Capitol like super-sized toilet paper and show how very long it is.
Size matters in the health care debate because Republicans have turned the length of the legislation into a symbol: Big, unwieldy bill means big, overreaching government.
Even bigger when you display double-spaced copies with double-wide margins and large print -- then pile copies of the House and Senate bills together so that the cameras see something monstrously tall.
Lawmakers routinely debate massive legislation without absorbing every word. They employ people to find what matters to them.
Indeed, legislation of comparable size was used to redefine an area of much more limited federal responsibility, education. That was the No Child Left Behind Act from the agenda of Republican President George W. Bush.
The nation's health care system accounts for one-sixth of the economy, and no one really expects brevity when reinventing something so complex.
No one really expects the Republicans' theatrical legislation inflation to stop, either.
Five Republican senators displayed the massive legislation on their desks during the weekend vote to bring the Senate health bill to full debate, as GOP lawmakers have been doing since the House bill came out earlier.
As if he risked a hernia carrying it any other way, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa was seen carrying the House Democratic bill on his shoulder, all roped together. GOP Rep. John Culberson of Texas brought a copy to a Capitol Hill rally and threw its loose pages to the crowd, like meat to lions.
The actual Senate bill, which Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced last week, came in at 2,074 double-spaced pages, 84 more pages than the House version, which was already being ridiculed for its size.
"Exceeding even 'War and Peace' in length," Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said of the House bill.
Said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas: "'War and Peace' -- some people consider it the greatest book ever written, but most people recognize the novel because at 1,284 pages its length is often the butt of jokes. Now imagine trying to read something that long overnight."
Actually, Leo Tolstoy's tome is longer than either bill. Full translated versions are nearly twice as long.
The bill passed by the House is 319,145 words. The Senate bill is 318,512 words, shorter than the House version despite consuming more paper. Various versions of Tolstoy's novel are 560,000 to 670,000 words. Bush's education act tallied more than 280,000 words.
By now, the full draft of Reid's bill that had circulated in the corridors and landed so prominently on Republican desks has been published in the Congressional Record in the official and conventional manner.
The type is small and tight. No hernias will be caused by moving this rendering of the bill around. Unfurling it on the Capitol steps would not be much of a spectacle.
It's 209 pages.