The US health care bill is expected to pass in a final Senate vote at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve after the 60-40 Senate vote to end the debate early Monday morning.

“Today, the Senate took another historic step toward our goal of delivering access to quality, affordable health care to all Americans,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said in a statement.

The vote was the first of three this week requiring Democrats to win the backing of 60 members — enough to break a GOP filibuster. Shortly after the vote, the Senate went into recess until noon Monday.

President Obama called the Senate vote a big victory for the American people.

Obama said the step brought the nation closer to health care reform that would make a tremendous difference to Americans by lowering health care costs and eliminating controversial practices by insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or exceeding benefit caps.

 If it passes, the measure will then have to be merged with a roughly $1 trillion plan passed by the House of Representatives in November.

Negotiations to merge the bill with the House version would begin early next month.