While the Senate began voting early Friday evening on the $787 billion economic stimulus package, the vote was held up for several hours to allow Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, to fly back from his home state, where he was attending a memorial service for his mother.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, allowed voting to remain open because Mr. Brown is expected to cast the critical 60th ballot that President Obama needs to secure Senate passage of the bill, with just three of 41 Republicans voting in favor.
The White House has arranged a plane to fly Mr. Brown to Washington on Friday night and then back to Ohio immediately after the scheduled vote so he can attend church services and the funeral in Mansfield on Saturday morning, Mr. Brown's office said.
Mr. Brown's mother, Emily Campbell Brown, died on Feb. 2 at age 88.
The Ohio senator was to head to Washington after visiting hours for his mother ended at 8 p.m. and land at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland.
Government transportation was provided to Mr. Brown because no commercial flights were available, the White House said.
A similar version of the stimulus package passed the Senate last week with 61 votes. But with one of the bill's previous supporters - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat - receiving treatment for brain cancer and unable to make another trip to Washington, Mr. Brown's vote likely is crucial to the bill's passage.