The assembly line in the Congressional sausage factory is ready to roll, to stuff what Max Baucus' butchers have hacked up into a casing with scraps from four other committees in the Senate and House.
Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the "Bill Blenders" start work today in a process that will make the past few months look like the Lincoln-Douglas debates as lobbying groups across the spectrum flood Washington with "a torrent of spending and grassroots activity" to influence what gets into the final product.
Underlying all the din will be the central question: How much control over American health care will remain in the hands of the profiteers who have made it the most expensive and one of the worst systems in the world?
The White House, after months of trying placate the implacable, is finally framing the issue openly as Obama's deputy communications director puts it: "The insurance industry has decided to lead the charge against health reform, and everyone recognizes their motives: profits, We are going to make sure they can't sink this effort at the last minute."
The saddest part of the spectacle in the coming weeks will be the near-impossibility of a rational public conversation about the issue in a time when TV ads will make "Harry and Louise" look like "The Waltons" and the staged public outrage will make the Tea Parties look like tea parties.
The Wall Street Journal fires its first salvo at "ObamaCare" with a scare editorial about cost controls in Massachusetts and a promise to explain what the Senate Finance Committee did yesterday that its members fail to understand. "You know," it warns, "who wins when the interests of government conflict with those of patients to choose a doctor or treatment."
The only consolation for all this bilge is that it has finally reached the stage where individual voices can be heard with letters, phone calls and emails to Senators and Representatives, urging them to stand up for the public interest, and some form of the public option, against the privateers who have held American health care hostage for more than half a century.