The Senate has temporarily halted debate on health care reform to turn to a massive year-end spending bill awarding generous funding boosts to foreign aid and domestic programs.
The 56-43 vote to begin debating the House-Senate compromise measure likely sets the stage for a final tally this weekend. Republicans have promised a filibuster of the measure, which totals $1.1 trillion and combines six spending bills for 10 Cabinet departments into a 1,088-page bundle.
Anti-abortion Republicans are particularly upset that the measure would end a ban on abortion funding by the Washington, D.C. government.
The tally fell short of the 60 votes that would be needed later to break a filibuster, but Democrats are hopeful of picking up a few Republicans in the end.