A free trade initiative that is pitting President Barack Obama against his own party cleared a major procedural hurdle in the Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday.

The 62-38 vote to end debate on the bill, moving it toward a vote, was a victory for Obama, who had linked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to push the bill despite opposition from Senate Democratic leaders.

McConnell said he’s willing to consider a host of amendments that Democrats are poised to offer later Thursday.

“This last vote was a major step forward on this important legislation,” said Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican who sponsored the bill.

Even though Senate passage is now much more likely, the House could be tougher, though. There, tea party conservatives are linking up with liberals to form a broader populist opposition than what existed in the Senate.

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