Members of the Senate today voted 61-37 to pass an amended version of H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
A somewhat different version of the bill passed in the House last week.
Lawmakers now are working on ironing out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
The bill includes a provision that would provide a 50% subsidy for 12 moths for laid-off workers who buy Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act group health continuation coverage, or COBRA coverage.
All Democratic senators who voted on the bill voted for it.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, and Sen. Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont, also voted for the bill.
Most Republicans voted against the bill.
The Republicans who voted for the bill were Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
Democratic senators and some Republican senators with concerns about the amount of spending authorized by the bill persuaded Senate leaders to cut the cost of the COBRA provision in the Senate version of H.R. 1 by about $5 billion, to $20 billion.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, singled the COBRA subsidy provision of the bill out for criticism in a floor statement made Monday.
“The bill places no limits on the eligibility for the subsidy,” Grassley said, according to a written version of his remarks. “Zilch, Zero. Why? … The fact of the matter is this: former Wall Street CEOs and hedge fund managers who have made millions of dollars – while running our economy into the ground – will get a taxpayer-funded subsidy equal to now 50% of their health insurance policy.