In an effort to clear its docket before the end of the year, the U.S. Senate has advanced a Defense Department spending bill.
Senators voted 63-33 in the pre-dawn hours Friday to end debate on the $636 billion package, clearing the way for a final vote on the measure Saturday. The House passed the bill earlier in the week.
The bill is the last of this year's major appropriations legislation left in Congress. Along with Pentagon funding, the measure also includes an extension for unemployment benefits, and funding for portions of the anti-terror Patriot Act and Medicare legislation.
The vote early Friday ended efforts by the Republican minority to stall debate. Democrats needed to muster all 60 of their members and allies for the procedural vote. The majority argued stall tactics were being used to prevent the Senate from considering the controversial health care reform measure.
Anti-war Democrat Senator Russ Feingold had originally opposed the procedural vote, but supported it because he said he recognized the Republican efforts were designed to kill health care reform.
The Senate leadership has been working long hours and weekends in an effort to finish health care reform legislation before the end of the year. The measure is a top priority of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, Bloomberg and Reuters.