President Joe Biden

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Saturday signed a $1.2 trillion package of spending bills[1] after Congress had passed[2] the long overdue legislation just hours earlier, ending the threat of a partial government shutdown.

“This agreement represents a compromise, which means neither side got everything it wanted,” Biden said in a statement. “But it rejects extreme cuts from House Republicans and expands access to child care, invests in cancer research, funds mental health and substance use care, advances American leadership abroad, and provides resources to secure the border. ... That’s good news for the American people.”

It took lawmakers six months into the current budget year to get near the finish line on government funding, the process slowed by conservatives who pushed for more policy mandates and steeper spending cuts than a Democratic-led Senate or White House would consider. The impasse required several short-term spending bills to keep agencies funded.

The White House said Biden signed the legislation at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was spending the weekend. It had cleared the Senate by a 74-24 vote shortly after funding had expired for the agencies at midnight.

But the White House had sent out a notice shortly after the deadline announcing that the Office of Management and Budget had ceased shutdown preparations because there was a high degree of confidence that Congress would pass the legislation and the Democratic president would sign it Saturday.

The first package of full-year spending bills, which funded the departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and the Interior, among others, cleared Congress[3] two weeks ago with just hours to spare before funding expired for those agencies. The second covered the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State, as well as other aspects of general government.

When combining the two packages, discretionary spending for the budget year will come to about $1.66 trillion. That does not include programs such as Social Security and Medicare, or financing the country’s rising debt.

On Ukraine aid, which Biden and his administration have argued was critical and necessary to help stop Russia’s invasion, the package provided $300 million under the defense spending umbrella. That funding is separate from a large assistance package[4] for Ukraine and Israel that is bogged down on Capitol Hill.

Biden, in his statement, again pressed Congress to pass additional aid.

“The House must pass the bipartisan national security supplemental to advance our national security interests. 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. It’s time to get this done.”

A bipartisan border package collapsed last month when Republicans senators scuttled months of negotiations with Democrats on legislation intended to cut back record numbers of illegal border crossings.

To win over support from Republicans, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., pointed to some of the spending increases secured for about 8,000 more detention beds for migrants awaiting their immigration proceedings or removal from the country. That’s about a 24% increase from current levels. Also, GOP leadership highlighted more money to hire about 2,000 Border Patrol agents.

Democrats are boasting of a $1 billion increase for Head Start programs and new child care centers for military families. They also played up a $120 million increase in funding for cancer research and a $100 million increase for Alzheimer’s research.

The spending package largely tracks with an agreement that then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California worked out[5] with the White House in May 2023, which restricted spending for two years and suspended the debt ceiling into January 2025 so the federal government could continue paying its bills.

Prospects for a short-term government shutdown had appeared to grow Friday evening after Republicans and Democrats battled over proposed amendments to the bill. But shortly before midnight, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced a breakthrough.

“It is good for the country that we have reached this bipartisan deal. It wasn't easy, but tonight our persistence has been worth it," Schumer said.

The House passed the legislation Friday morning by a vote of 286-134, narrowly gaining the two-thirds majority needed for approval.

The vote tally in the House reflected anger among Republicans over the content of the package and the speed with which it was brought to a vote. Johnson brought the measure to the floor even though a majority of Republicans ended up voting against it. He said afterward that the bill “represents the best achievable outcome in a divided government.”

In sign of the conservative frustration, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., initiated an effort to oust Johnson[6] as the House began the vote but held off on further action until the House returns in two weeks. It's the same tool that was used last year to remove McCarthy.[7]

The vote breakdown showed 101 Republicans voting for the bill and 112 voting against it. Meanwhile, 185 Democrats voted for the bill and 22 against.


Freking and Jalonick reported from Washington. AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Chris Megerian in Washington contributed to this report.

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The American and Japanese flags flying just before sunset at U.S. Marine Corp Base Camp Foster

Lawmakers are pressing the Pentagon to improve medical care in Japan for U.S. military personnel, families and Defense Department civilians amid ongoing concerns that the lack of access to care is forcing service members and federal civilian employees to leave the country.

The move follows efforts initiated last October by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command[1] and the Defense Health Agency to improve emergency medical services for Americans covered by a Status of Forces Agreement with Japan.

In a letter to the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and director of the Defense Health Agency, the bipartisan group that includes the chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Committee's personnel subcommittee said the issues have not been resolved.

Read Next: The Marine Corps Completed Its Force-Wide Barracks Inspection. Here's How it Went.[2]

"We appreciate the steps that DHA and INDOPACOM are taking to address these issues. But we continue to be concerned by reports of problems accessing care, and its impact on morale and retention," wrote Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas.

They cited examples of teachers who have left their positions at Department of Defense Educational Activity schools and a child clinical psychologist who served military families but had to leave Japan after not receiving timely care for an injury. The psychologist's departure, expected late last year, according to the DoD inspector general, left just one pediatric psychologist in the country to serve military and civilian dependents.

"These numerous reports of problems accessing care show its negative impact on morale and retention, and degrades our nation's readiness," the lawmakers wrote.

U.S. Forces Japan is home to roughly 54,000 U.S. military personnel, 45,000 military family members, and 8,000 Defense Department civilians and contractors.

In December 2022, the Defense Health Agency announced it would treat civilian U.S. employees in military hospitals and clinics in Japan on a space-available basis only and directed those patients to receive medical treatment from local providers if they could not be accommodated.

Following a backlash to the announcement, the DHA clarified its policy, announcing that civilians could continue to receive treatment for chronic conditions at military hospitals but said appointments for acute care would remain on a space-available basis.

Months later, U.S. military medical staff at Kadena Air Base[3] began preparing to send pregnant service members, spouses[4] and dependents out of the country to deliver their babies as a result of severe staffing shortages at Naval Hospital Okinawa[5]. The diversions never came to pass but not before eight DoD civilians requested their assignments be cut short as a result of medical concerns.

A November 2023 DoD inspector general report found significant challenges for using off-base medical resources, such as language barriers, differing approaches to medical care and the lack of availability of certain medications.

In their letter, the lawmakers said they have received complaints as recently as the last few months, and they want to know what steps the DoD is taking to solve the problems.

They cited the military health system's new strategic plan, published in December,[6] that said the DoD needs to stabilize the system, improve military and civilian staffing, and increase readiness.

"We seek to learn how and when DoD will implement the MHS Strategic Plan and the DoD IG's recommendations, and address ongoing problems with access to health care in Japan and the INDOPACOM region," they wrote.

In an interview with Federal News Network in November[7], DHA Director Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland said the agency had "worked through the challenges" of meeting health care demands for civilian employees in Japan and would have a new network structure in place by the end of 2024 that would address the issues.

"'We've unencumbered them to support the 'space-A' population on the same footing they'd previously supported them. We said, 'We really do have some capacity; let's maximize our capacity for all beneficiaries,'" Crosland said.

Navy[8] Adm. John Aquilino, who leads U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and wrote the order to improve medical staffing in the country, is expected to testify Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Related: With Hour-Long Drives and Weeks Until Appointments, Pregnant Military Women Feel Pain of Medical Reforms[9]

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