[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/13/art.brown.gi.jpg caption="Brown is flying back from Ohio for tonight’s vote."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate will start its vote on whether to approve the economic stimulus bill at 5:30 pm, but the vote will kept open until 10:30 pm because Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is home in Ohio attending his mother’s wake, and is not expected to return to the Capitol until late this evening.
Democrats need 60 votes to pass the bill, and Brown’s vote is expected to be the 60th.
Brown will be flown back to Washington on a government plane. The plane is provided by the White House, Brown’s office said, because the vote is “official business” and there are not commercial flights available that would allow him cast his vote and then return to Ohio for his mother’s funeral Saturday morning. He will fly back to Ohio immediately after he votes.
The vote that will start at 5:30 pm is technically a procedural vote to allow stimulus spending to exceed budget rules. But by unanimous consent, senators agreed to have the vote also count as the final passage of the bill, so there will not be a final roll call vote on the bill itself.
UPDATE: CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry reports that a White House official refused to provide a cost estimate for the military plane, but acknowledged “it will be a higher cost than if he were flying commercial.”
The official said it is a “small government plane” and the White House decided it was necessary because of the lack of commercial flights this evening, and the difficulty of getting Brown back to Ohio in time for an early burial Saturday morning.
“Taking immediate action to save or create 3.5 million jobs and get America’s economy moving again is a top priority for Ohio and the nation,” said the White House official. “Given that no commercial flights were available that would allow Senator Brown to make the vote and to attend services memorializing his mother, the administration provided government transportation to ensure that he could do so.”