Yesterday the U.S. House Appropriations Committee began consideration of legislation that would devastate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) with a 49% cut to its budget. An amendment to restore the funding to the NEA was defeated along a party-line vote of 19-27. With rising tempers over this cut and many others, the committee has now suspended its consideration until mid-September.
This legislation began its journey as a subcommittee proposal last week and the full committee is the middle step before it goes to the House floor for final consideration. Arts advocates are outraged and have sent more than 22,000 messages to Capitol Hill this past week calling for a rejection of these cuts.
As stated in yesterday’s committee meeting by members of Congress from both parties, the cuts to our cultural resources are misguided and disproportionate. Not only will they impact the NEA, but the millions of Americans working in the creative industries that are boosted by the strategic grants made by the NEA.
Senior Democratic appropriator Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) described the bill as the "worst bill considered during this appropriations cycle."
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) said, "We'd be better off passing a blank piece of paper."
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) noted how many communities in her state have been revitalized because of NEA support and how critical it is.
The Road Ahead: As members of Congress head back to their home districts shortly for a five week recess period, the appropriations process will be put on hold until their return on September 9. Americans for the Arts will continue to build our advocacy efforts, looking ahead to later in the fall when the committee will try again to complete its work and move consideration of the bill to the House floor, where amendments to restore funding, and unfortunately reduce funding even further, could be offered.
The steps beyond that are unclear as the appropriations process this year appears to be heading toward a dysfunctional ending. As the Senate and the House have vastly different appropriations levels on a variety of bills, it is unlikely that they will find a compromise position. The most likely outcome would be a “continuing resolution” that would maintain the current NEA funding level into the next fiscal year.