President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a $1.1 trillion federal spending plan that was forged through a rare bipartisan truce after years of bitter feuding over the government’s role and reach.
Obama walked from the White House to the neighboring Eisenhower Executive Office Building to sign the bill into law -- using six pens -- as a room full of Office of Management and Budget employees looked on.
"We would not be here, we would not be able to sign this legislation if it hadn't been for your work," he said. "This is my way of saying thank you."
At one point, Obama looked off to his right where the text of the massive spending bill was nestled in a box about a foot tall.
"Goodness gracious, that is a big piece of business; that is a big bill," Obama said. "I'm always interested in, like, where do they have the boxes for the really big ones?"
He told the employees that it "represents hours and hours and weekends and nights when people are paying attention and sweating the details. That's what you do."
Before thanking the employees, Obama touted his administration's role in what he said was the country's "remarkable progress" since the economic downturn.
"We did everything we can to lay the foundation so we have a middle class in this country that is thriving and growing," he said. "We've made remarkable progress over the last five years, but we haven't made enough."
And he decried past budget battles as "self inflicted wounds" and "part of the reason we haven't made as much progress as we needed."
The spending bill, he said was key, and could allow the debate in Washington to turn to other issues.
"Across the board our government is going to be operating without, hopefully too many glitches, over the next year," Obama said. "Not only is that good for you, and all the dedicated public servants in federal government but most importantly it's good for the American people." He closed saying he'd stop talking, "so you guys can start your weekends."
And, he added, "I've got to get back because somebody's having a birthday today," -- a reference to first lady Michelle Obama who turns 50 today and plans a dance party to celebrate on Saturday. "I gotta make sure I pay them some attention."
The Senate had voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve the plan, a day after the House of Representatives also gave it strong bipartisan backing.
This show of bipartisan cooperation may not be lingering. But it suggests that a Congress facing historically dismal approval ratings has heard constituents: Stop all the partisan battles, find common ground and do your job.
The bill provides for how taxpayer money will be spent between now and Sept. 30 on discretionary items, or those that Congress and the White House can directly affect annually. It does not include entitlements such as Social Security benefits, which are automatically adjusted.