What Senators Talk About When They Talk About Health Care: A By The Numbers Guide To The Debate

While getting Senators’ unanimous agreement on the health care bill Senate just sent to Congress would be impossible, I bet we could get them to agree on one thing: the debate was really, really long. Incredibly, insanely, overwhelming long.

But just how long was it? I did some combing through government statistics to get a sense of what exactly getting health care through the Senate involved. The answer, in short, is: a lot of time and a lot of harping on specific, over and over again. Without further adieu, the 2009 Senate health care debate by the numbers:

25 – Consecutive days of debate, the longest the Senate has stayed in session since 1917. That works out to…

229 hours, 0 minutes, and 8 seconds
– total amount of time the Senate spent in session during the health care debate, from November 20 to December 23, 2009.* This would be equal to almost 10 days of non-stop session.

1 hour, 21 minutes and 17 seconds - the longest time a Senator spent speaking during a single day of debate, the title going to Mike Enzi, Republican of Wyoming who spent it all on one speech on December 10, 2009.

185 – Total appearances on the floor debating health care reform made by Senator Max Baucus of Montana, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.  

1,010 – Times “abortion” was mentioned on the Senate floor, greatly outpacing other favorite words including the public option (254 mentions) and the cost curve (151 mentions)

797 – Times the words “affordable” was used (does not count mentions of “affordability”)

18 – The surprisingly small number of times death panels were mentioned. Same goes for socialism, which only got 20 shout outs. While the two subjects got a lot of buzz over the debate, they apparently did not make much of a splash on the Senate floor.

214 – References to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy during the debate, who had been a champion of health care reform, and passed away earlier this year.

1 – Senator who did not vote on the final health care reform bill: Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who provided no explanation for his absence. He missed a total of 21 votes this month.

2 – Senators who celebrated their wedding anniversaries on Dec. 22—Roland Burris and Tom Coburn—both noted in the Congressional Record.

*For ease of calculation this does include some time spent debating the 2010 Defense Budget. Also, at time of writing, transcripts of the Dec. 24, 2009 session were not yet available.

A big thank you is owed to C-Span and the Congressional Record; both their excellent record keeping and helpful staff were integral to this post’s existence.

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