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Senate Votes Overwhelmingly to Send Tax Package to House

Updated: 2:18 p.m.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s $858 billion tax cut measure, sending it to the House, where its future remains uncertain.

Senators approved the package 81-19. The healthy support came despite vigorous opposition from liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and conservatives such as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) who tried to filibuster it.

Prior to the final vote, three message amendments offered by Sanders, DeMint and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) failed, as expected.

While Senate liberals had criticized the deal, many ended up voting for it in the end. Some — like Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), who is up for re-election in 2012 — came under intense pressure from the National Republican Senatorial Committee to support the package. Brown had voted “no” on a procedural motion to advance the package on Monday, he but ended up voting “yes” on final passage Wednesday.

Just five Republicans — DeMint, Coburn and Sens. John Ensign (Nev.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and George Voinovich (Ohio) — voted against the measure. They joined Sanders and 13 Democrats: Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (N.D.) and Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Mark Udall (Colo.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

Sanders, Bingaman and Gillibrand are up for re-election in 2012.

The tax cut measure includes a two-year extension of all Bush-era tax cuts, a 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits a and one-year cut in the payroll tax.

The House could take up the bill as early as Wednesday night. Liberals are still hoping to change the measure before passing it, targeting provisions dealing with the estate tax.