Biden signs $1.2 trillion bill with 1% bump for HHS to avoid shutdown

President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion spending package March 23, averting a partial government shutdown and funding federal agencies for the next six months. 

The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 funds about three-quarters of the federal government, including the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, through Sept. 30. 

The president's signing occurred after the 12:01 a.m. deadline March 23. Although some federal funding technically expired, the White House budget office said it would not declare a shutdown because the vote was imminent. The House passed the legislation March 22 and the Senate passed it early on March 23.

Congress cleared its first $460 million package of full-year spending bills earlier in March, leaving itself less than two weeks to finalize the last six spending bills. 

"This agreement represents a compromise, which means neither side got everything it wanted," President Biden said

The spending bill earmarks $117 billion for HHS, which is about a 1% increase over fiscal year 2023. While it was accomplished with compromise, it still leaves some major questions to be answered by lawmakers. Reforms affecting pharmacy benefit managers, price transparency policies and site-neutral payments are not included in the package despite bipartisan interest from key lawmakers, for example. 

"Expect that battle to play out later this year when advocates will likely target an end-of-year package for their priorities," Politico suggests. "The future of telehealth and hospital care at home will also be a major policy question that lawmakers have to address by the end of the year."

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