Members of the Senate today voted for a tight time limit on the final round of debate on the Senate health bill, and to approve a motion to hold the final vote on passage at 7 a.m. Thursday, rather than at 8 a.m.

Supporters said the schedule change would help make it slightly easier for senators to get home for Christmas.

Senators voted 60-39, entirely along party lines, for a cloture resolution that is expected to prevent Republican opponents from keeping H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bill, off the floor with a filibuster, or endless round of debate.

Senators also held a series of other votes. They formally agreed 60-39 to let Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., replace the original text of H.R. 3590 — which would have created a tax break for members of the armed forces who were buying homes — with the text of the PPACA bill.

Senators voted 39-60 to defeat two Republican “points of order” suggesting that H.R. 3590 is unconstitutional.

Sen. James DeMint, R-S.C., had better luck with efforts to get the Senate to ban the practice of trading earmarks for votes. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said enforcing the measure would be impractical. But the DeMint proposal lost by a vote of just 53-46, and DeMint attracted the support of 7 Democrats: Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.; Russell Feingold, D-Wis.; Claire McCaskill, D- Mo.; Jeffrey Merkley, D-Ore.; Ben Nelson, D-Neb.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; and James Webb, D-Va.

After the series of votes ended, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, asked Republicans to let the Senate vote on H.R. 3590 at 6 p.m. today, or shortly after midnight, to help senators get home for Christmas. The Republicans objected.

The Republicans have pushed to have the Senate vote on H.R. 3590 on Christmas Eve to protest what they say are Democratic efforts to rush the bill through Congress without giving the Republicans any real chance to help shape the bill.

“I just want people to know who’s keeping us here,” Harkin said.

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Once the Senate votes Thursday morning, we plan to post a story about the vote here.

For earlier H.R. 3590 coverage, please see: