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Biden signs key government funding bills into law averting shutdown

President Joe Biden signed a package of six government funding bills into law Saturday, a day after lawmakers raced to fund critical government departments and agencies through the remainder of the fiscal year.

The spending bills – backed by the top Democrats and Republicans in both chambers – represent a major breakthrough for lawmakers after months of using stopgap bills to avert shutdowns at the eleventh hour and a race to get the latest measure across the finish line ahead of the Friday night deadline.

The White House thanked top congressional lawmakers from both parties “for their leadership” in getting the bills to the president’s desk.

The Office of Management and Budget said late Friday that agencies would continue their normal operations and had ceased shutdown preparations after Congress finally passed updated funding legislation. But the work isn’t over yet: Lawmakers still need to finalize and pass a second slate of funding bills ahead of a March 22 deadline.

Democrats and Republicans have both claimed wins in the spending package, which includes funding for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development as well as the Food and Drug Administration, military construction and other federal programs.

The Senate passed the measure Friday evening in a 75-22 vote, after it had passed the House earlier in the week.

The package will support a wide array of programs and initiatives, including hiring new air traffic controllers and rail safety inspectors; medical care and benefits for veterans; and science, technology and research programs aimed at bolstering US economic competitiveness and competition specifically with China in fields including artificial intelligence.

House Republicans, who have an extremely narrow majority, passed the package on a bipartisan basis Wednesday in a 339-85 vote, with 132 Republicans voting in favor and 83 Republicans opposed. Two Democrats voted in opposition.

Democrats have highlighted that the package funds key social safety net programs, including providing $7 billion for the WIC program, which delivers nutrition assistance for women, infants and children, a $1 billion increase from the prior fiscal year. The package also includes funding for rental assistance and other child nutrition programs, including the school lunch program.

Republicans, meanwhile, have touted some spending cuts in the legislation as well as conservative policy riders.

“This legislation forbids the Department of Justice from targeting parents exercising their right to free speech before school boards, while it blocks the Biden Administration from stripping Second Amendment rights from veterans. It imposes deep cuts to the EPA, ATF and FBI, which under the Biden Administration have threatened our freedoms and our economy, while it fully funds veterans’ health care,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has faced criticism from his right flank over his handling of the government spending fight, said in a previous statement.

In a sign of opposition from conservatives, the hardline House Freedom Caucus took an official position against the spending package, saying in a statement that it “punts on nearly every single Republican policy priority” and “surrenders Republicans’ leverage to force radical Democrats to the table to truly secure the southern border.”

CNN’s Samantha Waldenberg contributed to this report.

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