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Senate Moves Toward Passage of Stimulus Bill

The Senate’s economic stimulus bill passed a crucial first test Monday night, when three Republican Senators made good on their word and helped Democrats overcome procedural hurdles to completing the bill. By a vote of 61-36, the Senate moved to bring to a close debate on a bipartisan rewrite of the now $827 billion measure, with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) joining all 58 members of the Democratic caucus in support. Sixty votes were needed to avoid a GOP-led filibuster of the package. The vote cleared the way for a vote on final passage Tuesday. Collins, Specter, and Snowe helped broker a deal last week to shave $108 billion from the bill in exchange for their votes. Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Democratic-leaning Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.) helped negotiate the deal. Two Republicans did not vote: National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) and Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.). Gregg, President Barack Obama’s pick for Commerce secretary, recused himself from the vote, but it was unclear why Cornyn was absent. In his first appearance since suffering a seizure on Inauguration Day, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) voted. The stimulus measure must now be reconciled with the House version before it can be sent to Obama for his signature.

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