Biden Enacts Legislation Approved by Congress Amid Impending Shutdown



President Joe Biden has signed into law a $460 billion spending package, avoiding a federal agency shutdown. This legislation covers six annual spending bills, with lawmakers currently negotiating another six to ensure all federal agencies are fully funded by the March 22 deadline. Specific provisions in the package include hiring more air traffic controllers and rail safety inspectors, boosting support for homeless veterans, and prohibiting the sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China.

President Biden Signs $460 Billion Spending Bills Package

President Joe Biden has signed a $460 billion spending bills package, averting a potential shut down of many key federal agencies. The move contributes to the ongoing appropriations work for the 2024 fiscal year and sustains normal operations of crucial agencies.

The legislation incorporates six annual spending bills and received bipartisan support in both Congress chambers. A second set of six bills, including defense appropriations, is currently under negotiation to ensure complete funding of federal agencies by March 22.

Implications of the Spending Package

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asserted the bipartisan package will boost key sectors. The legislation will fund the hiring of air traffic controllers, rail safety inspectors, provide pay raises for federal firefighters, and support homeless veterans among other allocations.

Riding on bipartisan agreement, the Senate passed the bill 75-22. Sen. Susan Collins underscored the urgency of the legislation, urging colleagues to prioritize government funding.

Funding Challenges

Prior to this legislation, Congress relied on a series of interim bills for federal agency funding, as it grappled to agree on full-year spending. The total discretionary spending for the full budget year ending Sept. 30 is projected to be about $1.66 trillion.

While Republicans succeeded in keeping non-defense spending relatively stagnant, Democrats thwarted most policy riders proposed by Republicans, including an attempt to hinder new rules expanding access to the abortion pill, mifepristone. They also secured full funding for a nutrition program for low-income women, infants, and children, known as the WIC program.

Mixed Reactions on Legislation

Republican lawmakers also claimed policy victories, including a prohibition on the Justice Department from investigating parents who exercise free speech at local school board meetings. The package has received mixed reactions with some Republicans expressing discontent over the level of compromise leading to excess spending.

Sen. Rand Paul criticized the package for its high spending, attributing it to compromise between “big-government Democrats and big-government Republicans.”

The bill also includes more than 6,600 projects with a price tag of approximately $12.7 billion, triggering criticism from some Republican members. Nevertheless, the spending package is crucial in a divided Congress as any bill lacking bipartisan support stands no chance of passage.

Sen. Rick Scott’s attempt to remove these projects received only 32 votes with 64 against, underscoring the importance legislators place on these projects for their constituents.

The first package covers the departments of Justice, Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Interior and Transportation, among others.

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