SENATE APPROVES TAX DEAL, 81 TO 19…. Given the initial reaction to the tax policy agreement reached by the White House and congressional Republican leaders, it was unclear at first whether the bill would crash and burn on Capitol Hill.

And yet, this afternoon, the proposal cleared its first hurdle with relative ease.

The Senate on Wednesday approved the $858 billion tax plan negotiated by the White House and Republican leaders — the first concrete product of a new era of divided government and acid compromise.

The vote was 81 to 19, as Democrats yielded in their long push to end the Bush-era lowered tax rates for high-income taxpayers, and Republicans agreed to back a huge economic stimulus package, including an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and a one-year payroll-tax cut for most workers, with the entire cost added to the federal deficit.

The roll call is online. Of the 19 opponents, there were 13 Democrats, five Republicans, and Independent Bernie Sanders.

Oddly enough, looking back over the last two years, I don’t recall any major pieces of legislation passing with a majority this large. For much of the chamber, the allure of tax cuts is just that strong.

Of course, the bill now goes to the House, where support is unlikely to be as one-sided. Some of the agreement’s most ardent critics in the House still expect it to pass, but opposition, especially among liberal Dems, remains pretty intense.

That said, circumstances have been less than kind to Democratic detractors in the House. The caucus was gearing up for a fight, but had the wind taken from their sails by multiple national polls showing broad public support for the tax deal, including from self-identified liberal Dems. What’s more, the outcome in the Senate also didn’t do the left flank in the House any favors.

As Greg Sargent noted after yesterday’s cloture vote, “The overwhelming support for the tax deal — even among Senate liberals — gives House Dem leaders less maneuvering room to make any substantial changes to the bill. They don’t want to risk making changes that wouldn’t have support if the bill were kicked back to the Senate, because they don’t want to risk imperiling the deal.”

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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.