At 3:00 pm ET today, the Senate will vote to break the filibuster on the bill that extends the Bush-era tax cuts. The "cloture vote" is expected to garner the 60 votes needed to move the bill forward. Vote for passage could be as early as Tuesday.
Cloture votes are sometimes needed to break filibusters that are preventing bills from even coming to the floor for debate. This is NOT one of those votes -- because the bill is already officially being debated on the floor.
This vote essentially suggests: "The major negotiations are over, let's finish up the minor stuff, stop talking, and get ready to pass this thing." Once this part is over, the path for passage is relatively clear.
The expectation is that several Democrats and a few Republicans vote "no" today, but the bill will still muster enough bipartisan support to advance. These cloture votes are often referred to as "test votes," because their results are sometimes indicators of who'll eventually support final passage.
In addition to today's vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will decide which -- if any -- amendments to the bill will get votes. But any amendments agreed to are not expected to alter the core components of the bill.