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Bush quietly signs spending bill

President Bush on Friday signed a $373-billion spending bill for most federal agencies that allows him to assert he has held annually approved expenditures to just 3 percent growth for the budget year that still has eight months left in it.

Bush signed the measure privately and without ceremony.

"We applaud Congress for passing spending legislation that meets our highest priorities and holds the line on spending," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Four months after the Oct. 1 start of the government's fiscal year, the Senate rolled over opposition Democrats and voted 65-28 Thursday for the package. The House had approved the measure in December.

Financing programs from housing and job training to space and biomedical research, the bill covers 11 Cabinet departments and scores of other agencies, plus foreign aid and the District of Columbia government, by combining seven spending bills usually passed separately.

The administration hopes the bill will provide election-year proof of Bush's imposition of budget discipline and strengthen his administration's claim that it will be able to cut federal deficits in half in five years. Last year's shortfall was a record $375-billion.

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