Biden Signs Legislation to Extend Funding for Critical Departments

President Biden signed a $460 billion spending package on Saturday to avert a shutdown of critical federal departments even as lawmakers continue to wrestle over a financing blueprint for many other agencies more than halfway into the current fiscal year.

The president finalized the legislation before leaving his home in Wilmington, Del., to fly to Atlanta for a campaign rally. It will extend funding through the rest of the fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, for about half of the government, including the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Justice, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs.

But the rest of the government, including the Pentagon and the Homeland Security Department, remained on short-term life support, facing the prospect of running out of money by March 22 unless Congress and the president can agree on a plan. In his short tenure, Speaker Mike Johnson has made clear his desire to avoid a shutdown, even to the point of relying on Democratic votes, but the path ahead remains tricky.

In a statement issued by the White House, Mr. Biden made no mention of the outstanding issues but simply expressed his gratitude to eight congressional leaders for defusing the crisis over the first half of government. “Thank you,” he wrote, naming the eight “for their leadership.”

The $460 billion legislation, which packaged six of the 12 annual spending bills, was passed on lopsided bipartisan votes in the House on Wednesday, 339 to 85, and in the Senate on Friday, 75 to 22, just in time to beat a midnight deadline when funding was set to lapse. Mr. Biden ordered preparations for a partial shutdown to halt until he could sign the bill on Saturday.

The measure will largely hold the funding of the affected agencies to the levels in the debt limit and spending deal negotiated last year by Mr. Biden and Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, keeping domestic spending relatively flat outside of certain veterans’ programs.

While Republicans managed to insert some relatively modest policy provisions into the package, their most polarizing demands were rejected. Among the policies Republicans failed to include in the spending package was a move stripping funding for a new rule by the Food and Drug Administration allowing the abortion drug mifepristone to be distributed through the mail and at retail locations.

Congress now has 13 days to figure out the six remaining spending bills unless it votes to give itself more time, a challenge for Mr. Johnson, who is under enormous pressure from hard-liners in his conference to hold out for deeper spending cuts in domestic programs even though he has an extremely narrow majority.

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