Congress passes $460 billion in spending bills, avoiding government shutdown

On Friday, the Senate approved a $460 billion package of spending bills just in time to meet a midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown. 

The measure, passed by the House earlier, contains six annual spending bills. It now heads to the desk of President Joe Biden to be signed into law. 

Meanwhile, lawmakers are negotiating a second package of six bills, including defense legislation, with hopes to keep all federal agencies funded by a March 22 deadline. 

"To folks who worry that divided government means nothing ever gets done, this bipartisan package says otherwise," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY.

Schumer said the bill's passing would allow for the hiring of more air traffic controllers and rail safety inspectors, give federal firefighters a raise and boost support for homeless veterans, among other things.

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 75-22. The chamber labored to get to a final vote just hours before the midnight deadline for the first set of appropriations bills.

What Democrats think of the bill

Democrats staved off most of the policy riders that Republicans sought to include in the package. For example, they beat back an effort to block new rules that expand access to the abortion pill mifepristone. 

They were also able to fully fund a nutrition program for low-income women, infants, and children, providing about $7 billion for the WIC program. That’s a $1 billion increase from the previous year.

What Republicans think of the bill

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said one problem with the bill was too much compromise, which led to too much spending.

"A lot of people don't understand this. They think there is no cooperation in Washington and the opposite is true. There is compromise every day on every spending bill," Paul said.

However, many Republican lawmakers secured some policy wins with the bill's passing. 

For example, a key provision in the bill favored by Republicans aimed to prevent the sale of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China.

Another measure prohibits the Justice Department from investigating parents who exercise their free speech at local school board meetings. 

An additional measure strengthens gun rights for certain veterans despite opposition from critics who say it could make it easier for those with severe mental health problems like dementia to obtain a firearm. 

What else does the bill include? 

The bill also includes more than 6,600 projects requested by individual lawmakers with a price tag of about $12.7 billion. 

The projects attracted criticism from some Republican members, though members from both parties broadly participated in requesting them on behalf of their states and congressional districts. Paul called the spending "sort of the grease that eases in billions and trillions of other dollars because you get people to buy into the total package by giving them a little bit of pork for their town, a little bit of pork for their donors."

But Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla, 's effort to strip out the projects mustered only 32 votes, with 64 against. Murray said Scott's effort would override "all the hard work, all the input we asked everyone to provide us with projects that would help their constituents."

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.