Updated Mar 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

President Biden signs government funding package to avoid government shutdown

President Biden

President Biden before boarding Marine One on March 22. Photo: Bonnie Cash /UPI /Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion spending package Saturday, avoiding a government shutdown even though the Senate vote was two hours after the midnight deadline.

Why it matters: The package, which the House approved on Friday, will fund federal agencies such as the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Labor through the end of September.

  • The Senate approved the bill on a 74-24 vote just after 2 a.m. EDT, ending a long night in the chamber in which Republicans offered a series of amendments that were rejected or set aside.

When the Senate vote was imminent early Saturday, the White House released a statement saying the government's shutdown preparations had stopped. President Biden said in a statement after signing the agreement that it "represents a compromise."

  • "But I want to be clear: Congress's work isn't finished," the president said.
  • "The House must pass the bipartisan national security supplemental to advance our national security interests," he added.
  • "And Congress must pass the bipartisan border security agreement—the toughest and fairest reforms in decades—to ensure we have the policies and funding needed to secure the border."

Zoom in: The budget bill keeps federal spending roughly steady at 2023 levels, but gives both parties items to tout as victories.

  • Republicans have pointed to modest cuts to some agencies such as the FBI and funding increases for border security and the Pentagon.
  • Democrats have stressed that the bill avoids any tacked on controversial policy changes on issues like immigration and abortion that were pushed by right-wing Republicans.
  • The bill also restricts funding for the central U.N. agency providing assistance to Palestinian refugees — UNRWA — which has come under scrutiny following allegations that some of its staffers were involved in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The intrigue: Senate leadership debated late into the night over several politically tough amendments demanded by Republicans — many of them involving immigration.

  • Negotiators were concerned a few of the proposed amendments might pass with bipartisan support, which would require sending the spending package back to the House.
  • But House members left for a two-week recess on Friday, so any reworking of the package in the Senate could have triggered a significant shutdown.
  • One key amendment pushed by Republicans would require the Department of Homeland Security to detain undocumented immigrants who commit criminal offenses such as theft and burglary.
  • The bill — the Laken Riley Act — is named for a nursing student recently killed by a Venezuelan who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

Between the lines: The spending bills approved by the House and Senate were not formally released until early Thursday morning.

  • They were delayed because of partisan fights over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border and immigration enforcement.
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