READY OR NOT, HERE HEALTH CARE COMES…. Senators Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy sent the White House a letter today, explaining that they’ve been working on a health care reform bill, and they plan to have a package ready by early June.

Senator Max Baucus, who heads the Finance Committee, and Senator Edward Kennedy, who heads the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a letter they will ensure that compatible bills emerge from their panels.

“Our intention is for that legislation to be very similar, and to reflect a shared approach to reform, so that the measures that our two committees report can be quickly merged into a single bill for consideration on the Senate floor,” the two Democrats wrote in the letter. […]

“We must act swiftly, because the cost of inaction is too high for individuals, families, businesses, state and federal governments,” Baucus and Kennedy wrote.

“We must act to contain the growth of health care costs to ensure our economic stability; to help American businesses deal with the health care challenge; and to make sure that we are getting our money’s worth.”

Time‘s Jay Newton-Small, who posted a copy of the Kennedy/Baucus letter to Obama, noted, “The letter is significant as it sets a time table that will now have political consequences if it is not met. This move, combined with the reconciliation language expected to be included in the final budget resolution, holds stake-holders’ feet to the fire to get something done this year.”

Jonathan Cohn added that the plan calls for committee markups in early summer, floor debates and votes in late summer, conference negotiations and then a final vote in early fall: “It’s an ambitious timetable and nobody would be surprised if it slipped. Committee staff have a ton of work to do before they can craft legislative language; and, even then, any of a gazillion political issues could delay progress. That’s why the overall timetable is not official. But this announcement suggests that, so far, things are moving ahead nicely.”

And what of the opposition? Carrie Budoff Brown had a piece today noting that Republicans are starting to feel “nervous” when they see Democrats “organized” and “energized” to pass a major reform package.

There’s no Republican plan yet. No Republicans leading the charge who have coalesced the party behind them. Their message is still vague and unformed. Their natural allies among insurers, drug makers and doctors remain at the negotiating table with the Democrats.

So Republicans now worry the party has waited so long to figure out where it stands that it will make it harder to block what President Barack Obama is trying to do.

I read Fred Barnes’ piece over the weekend urging Republicans to rally the troops to defeat “Obamacare.” I almost felt sorry for Barnes reading it — the piece included tired cliches, bogus talking points, and a cry for “a well-financed army of relentless opposition.” It all felt like Barnes was going through the motions, insisting that health care reform be killed “for the good of the country,” but failing to even bother explaining why.

If Barnes can’t even write a coherent opposition piece, Democrats have to like their chances.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.