Updated at 8:36 a.m. on December 14.
The Senate on Monday delivered a bipartisan vote of support for a tax deal negotiated by the White House and congressional Republican leaders.
Voting 83-15, the Senate agreed to cut off the debate with which opponents of the measure were trying to delay its passage. That was well over the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster and brought President Obama before the cameras at the White House to encourage the House to "act quickly" and enact the package.
While he acknowledged that "folks on both sides of the political spectrum are unhappy" with portions of the deal, Obama urged its passage for the sake of the Americans who will benefit from the economic growth he believes it will spur. "Nearly every economist agrees that this is what this package will do," the president said.
The "no" votes ran the ideological gamut, from Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who identifies himself as a socialist, to Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, one of the chamber's most conservative Republicans.
Monday's vote means the Senate could pass the tax bill as early as today. That would send the deal to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., says that compromise by angry liberal Democrats is "inevitable."
Before the vote, Senate leaders expressed confidence that most Democrats will join with nearly all Republicans to support the measure. Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on Sunday that he and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., counted votes over the weekend and believe that “a cross section of Democrats” will back cloture, with a “handful” voting no.
The agreement, reached between the White House and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would extend all Bush-era tax cuts for two years and give Republicans their preferred estate-tax rate of 35 percent, with a $5 million exemption. It would also extend unemployment benefits for 13 months and create a payroll-tax holiday.
Senate passage looks assured, but the timing of the vote does not. Democratic and GOP leadership aides said that leaders are still working on a unanimous-consent agreement that would schedule votes on amendments. A vote on final passage could come as early as today if senators agree to yield back some or all of the 30 hours allotted for debate following the cloture vote. Without an agreement, the vote will wait until Wednesday.
Senate leadership aides said they expect the chamber to continue working into next week. For the second consecutive year, the Senate may stay in session until just before Christmas, they said.
The House, which returns today, is also queuing up amendment votes for the tax package. In both chambers, those votes may play a key role in attracting additional Democratic support for the bill.
Hoyer predicted that liberal House Democrats will try to amend the Senate bill. The size of the estate-tax breaks has caused “much consternation" in his party's ranks, he said.
Two polls released Monday indicate that most Americans support it. The latest Pew poll found that about 60 percent of Americans approve of the deal, while 22 percent disapprove. Notably, the poll found that liberal Democrats and moderate Democrats supported it about equally. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 69 percent of Americans back the deal, though only 11 percent support all four of the deal’s main tax provisions.
House Democratic leaders are discussing ways to make changes in the Senate bill. Options include splitting off the estate-tax provision so that members can vote on it separately and offering an amendment to the main bill.
The House Ways and Means and Rules committees will have a chance to suggest amendments to the Senate bill. If they do, “we will have votes on those amendments," Hoyer said.
Should any amendments pass, the bill will have to go back to the Senate for another vote. But House Republicans and retiring centrist Democrats may provide enough support for the Senate-passed bill to keep it from being amended.
Opposition to the tax compromise is also growing on the right, however. A leading tea party group, the Tea Party Patriots, launched a petition drive against the deal Monday.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, considered a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, penned an op-ed in this morning's USA Today criticizing the deal for its implications for long-term growth.
“Because the extension is only temporary, a large portion of the investment and job growth that characteristically accompanies low taxes will be lost," Romney writes. "With only a two-year extension, investors know that before their returns are realized, tax rates may be jacked up to the levels favored by President Obama.”
Rep. John Ensign, R-Nev., also criticized the "short-term mentality" that led to the deal, but said he opposes it primarily for adding to the nation's record deficits.
"We’re seeing economies around the world where they’ve taken on too much debt and they’re starting to collapse," Ensign said on MSNBC's Morning Joe today. "This debt can literally destroy this country."
Ensign said more spending cuts and offsets should have been included in the deal.
Hoyer said he hopes that Congress can finish its business by week’s end. But he did not shut the door on the possibility that the House may have to come back into session later this month.
“I think we will pass a bill... as opposed to not passing anything,” he told reporters at the National Press Club.
"This deal is giving Democrats some pause,” Hoyer said. “Having said that, I believe action is necessary and compromise was inevitable.”
"No" Votes: Senators who opposed advancing the tax bill
Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.
Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio
Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
John Ensign, R-Nev.
Russell Feingold, D-Wis.
Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Carl Levin, D-Mich.
Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
Mark Udall, D-Colo.
George Voinovich, R-Ohio