Biden Signs $1.2 Trillion Funding Package After Senate Passes Bill, Avoiding Shutdown

Joe Biden signed $1.2 trillion
President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion package of spending bills on Saturday, shortly after Congress passed the long-awaited legislation, putting an end to the looming threat of a partial government shutdown.

The White House confirmed that Biden signed the legislation at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was spending the weekend. The Senate had approved the bill with a 74-24 vote just after midnight, when funding for government agencies had expired.

Ahead of the deadline, the White House had already signaled confidence that Congress would pass the legislation and the President would sign it on Saturday, thus halting preparations for a shutdown by the Office of Management and Budget.

Lawmakers faced a six-month delay in finalizing government funding for the current budget year. This delay was prolonged by conservative demands for more policy measures and deeper spending cuts, which clashed with the preferences of the Democratic-led Senate and White House. To bridge this impasse, several short-term spending bills were required to keep agencies operational.

The first set of full-year spending bills, covering departments like Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, and the Interior, was cleared by Congress two weeks ago, just before funding expired. The second set covered departments such as Defense, Homeland Security, and State, as well as other government functions.

Combining both packages brings discretionary spending for the budget year to approximately $1.66 trillion. This excludes programs like Social Security and Medicare, as well as financing for the national debt.

Regarding aid for Ukraine, deemed crucial by the Biden administration to counter Russia’s invasion, the package allocated $300 million under defense spending. This funding is separate from a larger aid package for Ukraine and Israel, currently stalled in Congress.

To garner Republican support, House Speaker Mike Johnson highlighted spending increases for an additional 8,000 detention beds for migrants awaiting immigration proceedings or deportation, representing a 24% increase from current levels. Republicans also emphasized increased funding to hire approximately 2,000 more Border Patrol agents.

Democrats celebrated a $1 billion boost for Head Start programs and new childcare centers for military families. They also highlighted a $120 million increase in cancer research funding and a $100 million increase for Alzheimer’s research.

The spending package closely follows an agreement reached in May 2023 between then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the White House, which imposed spending restrictions for two years and suspended the debt ceiling until January 2025 to ensure continued government solvency.

Prospects of a short-term shutdown loomed on Friday evening as Republicans and Democrats clashed over proposed amendments. However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a breakthrough just before midnight, hailing the bipartisan deal as beneficial for the country.

The House approved the legislation on Friday morning with a vote of 286-134, narrowly meeting the two-thirds majority required for passage.

The breakdown of the House vote reflected Republican dissatisfaction with the package’s contents and the speed of its approval. Despite the majority of Republicans voting against it, Speaker Johnson brought the bill to the floor, stating it represented the best outcome achievable in a divided government.

In a sign of conservative frustration, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene initiated a motion to oust Speaker Johnson as voting began. However, further action was postponed until the House reconvenes in two weeks, utilizing the same procedure employed last year to remove Speaker McCarthy.

The final House vote saw 101 Republicans and 185 Democrats voting for the bill, while 112 Republicans and 22 Democrats voted against it.

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