The Senate voted to move forward with a $54 billion Transportation spending bill Tuesday in a 73-26 vote that split upper chamber Republicans.

Nineteen Republican senators voted in favor of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill, even though it would spend significantly more that a $44 billion House bill.

The Senate bill also exceeds President Obama’s requested funding level.

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Republicans backing the bill included Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeEPA's Pruitt: Bring back 'true environmentalism' Tax cut complete, hawks push for military increase Trump meets with oil-state GOP senators on ethanol mandate MORE (Oka.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE (Ariz.), Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (Ill.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Tech: States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal | Senate Dems reach 50 votes on measure to override repeal | Dems press Apple on phone slowdowns, kids' health | New Android malware found Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals MORE (Maine). Those opposed included Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year Despite amnesty, DACA bill favors American wage-earners MORE (Ky.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle With religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again This week: Time running out for Congress to avoid shutdown MORE (Utah) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector Senators unveil bipartisan push to deter future election interference Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE (Fla.).

Conservatives had heavily criticized the bill, and the Club for Growth argued when it was approved in committee that Republicans who supported it were “tone deaf.”

GOP leaders did not whip against the procedural motions on Tuesday, but sources said it was possible there could be a filibuster against the bill later this week if it is not improved on the floor.

The Transportation bill is the first of 12 annual spending bills the Senate has taken up.

The split in the GOP over the measure first emerged in committee, when a half-dozen GOP senators voted with Democrats in supporting the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle MORE (D-Nev.) said he selected that appropriations bill to bring to the floor first to highlight the spending differences between the House and Senate, in an effort to push Republicans into forming a budget conference committee.

“The companion measure from the House of Representatives puts affordable housing out of reach for many low-income Americans — many of whom are elderly or disabled,” Reid said Tuesday. “The House bill also slashes investments in new roads and bridges. … The Senate bill is a bipartisan blueprint for investing in modern infrastructure and creating new jobs while maintaining a vital social safety net. House Republicans obviously have a different vision.”

If the Senate approves the bill later this week, it would set up a difficult conference with the House.

The House Republican bill cuts the Community Development Block Grant program and high-speed rail projects, while Senate Democrats maintain most existing funding for those programs.

Collins, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations subcommittee that handled the bill, worked closely with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCDC director to miss fourth hearing because of potential ethics issues Week ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare MORE (D-Wash.), the chairman of the subcommittee, in putting the bill together.

She predicted that if the House and Senate go to conference, the final spending level would wind up lower than $54 billion.

"Could there be further cuts to our bill? Absolutely," Collins said. "I would bet that when we negotiate with the House, the allocation of funds will end up somewhere in the middle." 

 But Collins added that House cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program were unacceptable.

Murray touted the bipartisan support on Tuesday.

“The Senate transportation and housing bill received strong bipartisan support as it moved through the Appropriations Committee,” Murray said. “Because it helps families and communities, it gets workers back on the job. It’s fiscally responsible, and it lays down a strong foundation for long-term and broad-based economic growth.”