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 Inhofe2020 debates complicate Senate plans for vote on Trump's war authority GOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats McConnell opens door to vote on Iran war authorization MORE (Oka.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Trump pick brings scrutiny to 'revolving door' between Pentagon, industry MORE (Ariz.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkFunding the fight against polio Ex-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby The global reality behind 'local' problems MORE (Ill.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' Susan Collins: Trump's 'she's not my type' defense is 'extremely bizarre' The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations MORE (Maine). Those opposed included Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House Senate Health Committee advances bipartisan package to lower health costs Senate GOP to defeat proposal requiring approval for Iran attack MORE (Ky.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhite House to convene social media summit after new Trump attacks GOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats O'Rourke on Senate bid backer Beyoncé: I will have to 'earn her support' for 2020 MORE (Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate GOP to defeat proposal requiring approval for Iran attack Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales MORE (Utah) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats Mellman: Are primary debates different? Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court 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 ReidSenators briefed on US Navy's encounters with UFOs: report Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview 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 MurraySenate Health Committee advances bipartisan package to lower health costs Overnight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Chris Murphy may oppose bipartisan health bill unless it addresses ObamaCare 'sabotage' 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.”