Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn backed off his effort to have the health care bill read aloud during a Senate session because some members of the GOP weren’t supporting him. (Under Senate rules, any senator can demand that a bill be read before debate begins.)

A spokesperson for Coburn said that his motivation was not to delay debate, but rather to make sure everyone knows what they’re getting into. “He wants to make sure everyone has a chance to read the bill,” the spokesperson said.

Other Republicans have claimed that the health reform bill is longer than Leo Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace,” implying that there is little time to read the bill in its entirety, and that a bill that large is a sign of an overly powerful government. But is there any merit to these claims? Or are they simply scare tactics put together by the Republicans to make Americans think the bill is an unwieldy, dangerous monster that must be stopped? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

? The House version of the bill is 319,145 words.

? The Senate version of the bill, though 84 pages longer than the House version, is actually shorter than its House counterpart, at 318,512 words.

? Republican President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act was more than 280,000 words.

? As it turns out, those who claim that “War and Peace” is longer than the Senate bill are wrong – by at least 241,000 words. Depending on the translation, an English version of the Tolstoy classic runs anywhere from 560,000 to 670,000 words. If you’ve never read the novel, here are some word counts for other popular novels to help put everything in perspective: Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is 175,000 words long; “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand is 645,000 words. The complete Harry Potter series is 1,090,739 words.

? The average American adult can read about 250 words per minute and still understand what they are reading. Therefore, it would take approximately 21 hours and 15 minutes to read the Senate bill, or three eight-hour days. However, most senators don’t actually read legislation. Instead, they have their congressional assistants do the work, then fill them in on anything they need to know.

But considering the truth about the length of the bill, is it the responsibility of every senator to read the legislation? With an economy in turmoil, this is a dangerous time to be gambling a lot of money on a plan they don’t know everything about. And it’s not just Republicans who aren’t reading the bill; Democratic Rep. John Conyers admitted to not reading the bill, and went so far as to say, “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have … two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

Clearly, even if it’s short enough for opponents to give up their longer-than-Tolstoy fight, there is still plenty to attack over the confusing language of the bills.

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal. She can be reached at 800-933-9449 ext. 225 or HTrese@AgentMedia.com.