‘CENTRISTS’ ARE DONE COMPROMISING…. This afternoon, as expected, the Senate approved its $838 billion stimulus plan. The vote was exactly as expected — the measure passed 61 to 37, with Sens. Collins, Snowe, and Specter joining the entire Democratic caucus. Judd Gregg recused himself from the process.

Even this morning, as the floor debate neared completion, we continued to hear the same nonsense from opponents. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee, for example, insisted, “This is a spending bill, not a stimulus bill.” It’s all quite tiresome.

Nevertheless, the next phase — a conference committee between House and Senate negotiators — should be nearly as contentious as this one. Already, the same “centrists” who helped the bill overcome Republican obstructionism are threatening to withdraw their support if anyone tries to change their version of the legislation.

Already, both Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), the architect of the compromise, and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), one of three Republicans whose support was crucial on Monday, have come out to say they won’t accept a bill that’s much different from the one they voted for.

“It can’t be materially different as to the topline [of about $830 billion] or as to the pieces in the package,” Nelson told Politico. And Specter released a statement that reads, “My support for the Conference Report on the stimulus package will require that the Senate compromise bill come back virtually intact including, but not limited to, overall spending, the current ratio of tax cuts to spending, and the $110 billion in cuts.”

The goal is to get the bill to the president’s desk “within days.” We’ll see how that goes.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.