And just like that, the fast track is gone, and the push for health care reform has stepped off the bullet train.
In three days, it will be August and the start of the House's summer recess, and congressional leaders have conceded they will not approve health care reform legislation by then. President Obama says that's "OK." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it'll get done "whenever."
That's a big change from just two weeks ago, when it seemed the legislation was on autopilot, cruising through votes in three committees while the president and his allies predicted swift passage on the floor despite GOP opposition.
And although some members of a coalition of conservative Democrats announced a breakthrough in negotiations Wednesday, a final deal on the legislation could be a long way off, meaning August could stand as a key month before the potentially dramatic finale in the fall.
"I'm not afraid of August. It's a month," Pelosi said recently.
But August -- the Senate recess begins a week after the House breaks -- will be the first big gap in public debate since health care reform hit the fever pitch. To fill the gap, lawmakers and the president will keep pressing their case while on break.
Senate lawmakers on both sides of the aisle plan a flurry of in-person town hall meetings in their districts.
Democratic leadership aides told FOX News that their members will be hosting events across the country, while Republicans apparently are trying to match that.
Already, Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming, both doctors, are hosting an educational program called "The Senate Doctors Show" to give their take on health care reform. The senators are answering questions submitted by e-mail, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
The "Doctors Show" is heading on the road over recess, FOX News has learned.
Meanwhile, aides will spend the summer break toiling over how to marry the Senate Finance Committee bill with elements of a more partisan bill from the Health Committee before bringing it to the floor.
It's unclear whether the Finance Committee bill even will be done by that time, though. Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is trying to strike a bipartisan compromise that could produce a bill that looks substantially different from the versions that have passed out of committee. Despite signs of progress in the discussions, a Baucus aide sent a memo to staffers Wednesday saying "neither an accord nor an announcement is imminent."
Similar town halls meetings are planned for House members over August.
Under a deal announced Wednesday among the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, congressional leaders and the White House, the House will wait until September to bring the bill to the floor -- so that members can spend August combing through the massive bill and listening to the concerns of their constituents.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday there's a chance lawmakers could stay in session next week to work on a health care bill, but he called the chance "pretty slim."
"We're trying not to foreclose options," he said.
And out of the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that President Obama will continue to travel in August to hold town halls on health care and the economy.
The president won't be holding the kind of daily health care events he has held since last week, but Gibbs said he would be speaking out regularly on the topic during break.
With public opinion split over health care reform, the August encounters between lawmakers and their constituents could be critical, not only in keeping the American people on board with the reform push but also in shaping the course of debate once members return in September.
A Gallup poll out Wednesday showed 44 percent of Americans believe health care reform would improve U.S. medical care, while only 26 percent believe it would improve their own medical care.
The poll was conducted Friday and Saturday, based on interviews with 2,017 adults. It had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
FOX News' Trish Turner and Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.