By Jeffrey Young - 12/22/09 08:29 PM EST
Under Senate rules, the GOP could have insisted that the vote not occur until 7 p.m. but Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon to announce an agreement that allows senators to depart Washington sooner to begin the Christmas holiday.
The 60 members of the Democratic caucus have united twice on procedural votes to advance the legislation, meaning passage is all but assured Thursday. On Wednesday, the Senate will hold a cloture vote to end debate on the bill, setting up final action.
"We hope to be able to complete it tomorrow," Reid said. "Certainly with ice storms coming to the Midwest we hope that we can finish tomorrow and not have to be here Christmas Eve."
But the Senate Republican caucus, pressed by conservative activists, have been inflexible about Senate procedure and were determined to push the final vote to Christmas Eve.
"I think it's important that we take the time to analyze every way we can," McConnell said.
Reid and McConnell came to terms after the Republican leader sought input from his caucus members during a Tuesday luncheon meeting.
Reid and McConnell also agreed to allow votes on a bill to temporarily raise the federal debt ceiling and several related amendments.