Washington (CNN) - A nearly $140 billion bill to extend unemployment benefits and a host of expiring tax cuts cleared a procedural hurdle Tuesday in the Senate on a vote of 66-34, setting up passage of the bill possibly later in the day.
Eight Republicans joined with all Democratic senators except for Ben Nelson of Nebraska, on the vote to end debate on the bill, which still must be merged with a companion bill in the House.
One Republican senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, said he voted yes to "keep the process moving" but said he might vote against the final bill.
In addition to extending unemployment payments and assistance for the unemployed to buy health insurance, the bill staves off scheduled cuts in the payments doctors receive for treating Medicare patients.
The bill extends a wide range of tax cuts that were set to expire. They include a tax cut for teachers who buy school supplies out of their own pocket; a tax cut for small businesses that pay workers called to active military duty; research and developments tax cuts; and tax cuts for restaurant and small business owners to depreciate improvements in their businesses.
Many Republicans opposed the bill because of its high price tag which was only partially off-set. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the bill would spend more than Democrats promise will be saved over ten years if their health care overhaul is passed.
"There's $100 billion in the bill that's on the Senate floor right now that's not paid for," McConnell said before the vote. "So whatever savings they allege will occur under their health care bill over the next 10 years is going to be gone as soon as this bill passes."
Democrats argued that the spending does not need to be offset because much of it is emergency spending to respond to the economic downturn.