After several days of delays, the Senate finally released its health care reform legislation and the official Congressional Budget Office score to go along with it. Despite promises that the bill and the score would be available around 5 p.m. this evening, the CBO's full analysis wasn't released until fairly late in the evening, leaving most reporters with nothing to report but the headline numbers put out early on by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Needless to say, those numbers are the numbers Reid is happiest to have people see: According to a handout prepared for reporters this evening, the bill would cost about $850 billion, cover 94 percent of the uninsured, reduce the deficit by $127 billion over 10 years, and reduce the deficit by a further $650 billion over the following decade. Since the CBO's data-heavy 31-page report, which explains the assumptions behind those numbers, was released so late, those are the numbers that dominated the evening news, and they're also the numbers that will make headlines in newspapers tomorrow morning.
Naturally, those reports won't include any detailed analysis of the bill's score. Nor will they include the any of the score's caveats, such as the CBO's caution that "the range of uncertainty surrounding that assessment [of the federal budgetary commitment to health care] is quite wide," or its now-familiar warning that "these longer-term calculations assume that the provisions are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next two decades, which is often not the case for major legislation."
So whether it was by design or not, Harry Reid effectively won himself a news cycle by putting out the news he wanted people to see in advance of the substantive report.