There was a "test" vote on the stimulus yesterday in the Senate, with depressing results: It passed with 61 votes, setting the stage for today's real vote that will move the legislation into the conference stage, during which relatively minor differences between the House and Senate versions are hashed out. From there, it's on to President Obama's desk. "There is no reason we can't do this by the end of the week," says Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Some details from an AP report of yesterday's vote:
The vote was 61-36, one more than the 60 needed to move the measure toward Senate passage today. That in turn, will set the stage for possibly contentious negotiations with the House on a final compromise on legislation the president says is desperately needed to tackle the worst economic crisis in more than a generation.
Monday's vote was close but scarcely in doubt after the White House and Democratic leaders agreed to trim about $100 billion Friday….
The two remaining versions of the legislation are relatively close in size—$838 billion in the Senate and $819 billion in the House, and are similar in many respects….
Both houses would provide tax breaks for home buyers, but the Senate is far more generous. The Senate bill also gives a tax break to purchasers of new cars….
The Senate proposed $450 million for NASA for exploration, for example, $50 million less than the House. It also eliminated the House's call for money to combat a potential flu pandemic….
Back in the day, legislators used to beat each other on the Senate floor over issues such as slavery. I look forward to Arlen Specter and Henry Waxman caning each other over funding for NASA's mission to Uranus (tickets still available).
What can you say about deliberations in which Sen. Lamar "Lamar!" Alexander (R-Tenn.) is one of the good guys? "This is a spending bill, not a stimulus bill," noted the flannel-clad English-only advocate. Or where Mike Enzi (look him up) emerged from his witness-protection-program-like obscurity to issue a "jerk-store" style zinger: This is a "spending bill that spends everything we've got on nothing we are sure about."
Given the current makeup of the Senate, even Jar Jar Binks would look like Cicero. But thank Jove for some dissenting voices in today's money-guzzling madness.
Today's real Senate vote should be hitting the TV around noon ET. Prepare for plagues of grasshoppers, flaming toads, and rivers of blood. Or maybe those are just the drinks we should all be preparing in very large doses to take the edge off this afternoon—and the next decade or so.
Update: The Senate bill has passeth! Go here to continue the conversation.