ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: After a whirlwind week of closed-door negotiations and intense debate between Republicans and Democrats about the role of government, the Senate passed its $838 billion version of a stimulus bill early this afternoon.
Passage of the bill relied on the delicate compromise crafted by three Republicans and centrist Democrats and the presense of Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachussetts, who is suffering from brain cancer and had not been present for votes this year. Kennedy also voted on a procedural motion Monday.
The expected Republicans - Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voted with Democrats.
The only Senator not voting was Judd Gregg, the Republican President Obama has nominated to head the commerce department and who recused himself from voting on the stimulus.
Next for the bill comes a conference with the House, where the senate version will have to be reconciled with the $819 billion version that passed there Jan. 28th. House Democrats will try to add some of the direct spending on education stripped from the Senate version by the moderate compromise. The Senate version is weighted more to tax incentives than the House version. Senators stripped direct spending but their version is more expensive because it includes an $80 billion one-year patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax, a $15,000 tax credit for home buyers ($16 billion in total) and a $1,500 tax credit for new car buyers ($11 billion).
The Republicans who supported the bill in the Senate have warned that too many changes could cost their support going forward. No Republicans supported the House bill.
The Senate conferees will include Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and the chairmen and ranking members of the Finance and Appropriations Committees - Democrats Max Baucus of Montana and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.