June 27, 2007
Great news! The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a new historic level of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The bill provides a $35 million increase to the NEA - the largest in the history of the agency! This accomplishment didn’t come easily -- the debate took place over two days and of the many amendments offered to the bill, three specifically targeted cuts to the NEA.
Below are the details of the debate, the votes and what’s up next!The floor action began with Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA) outlining his support for the NEA. He recalled how the Congressional Hearing on the arts that his subcommittee held on Arts Advocacy Day helped to provide a basis for this increase, he stated, “the committee has acted to provide the funding so arts can reach even more broadly into American communities with a richer variety of programs.”Mr. Dicks was joined on the House floor by Congressional Arts Caucus Co-chairs Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Chris Shays (R-CT). Mrs. Slaughter cited the Arts & Economic Prosperity III report stating that the arts mean, “$12.6 billion in Federal Government tax revenues, and 5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs…Simply put, in every way, investment in the arts is sound public policy.” Mr. Shays added his support to the increase in NEA funding by speaking about his personal life and how his parents introduced him to the value of the arts.
For the opposition, Representatives Rob Bishop (R-UT), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO) each offered an amendment that sought to cut funding for the NEA. While the amendments from Reps. Bishop and Lamborn sought to reduce NEA funding in order to fund other programs, the Brown-Waite amendment was written to solely cut funds from the agency. She stated on the House floor, “Americans are tired of wasteful Washington spending and are unwilling to pay for this so-called art with their tax dollars. Don’t reward the National Endowment for polishing trash and call it art.”All three ‘weakening’ amendments were debated for 10 minutes apiece on the House floor and then were called for a recorded vote. Each one went down to defeat. Based on how they voted on the Bishop Amendment, you can click here to thank your Member of Congress for his or her vote to strengthen the NEA, or express your disappointment with their vote to weaken the agency.
Final passage of the House Interior Appropriations bill was approved by a vote of 272-155.Over the past few weeks, Americans for the Arts has been sending you these Arts Action Alerts, asking for your help. And you have kindly responded! Over the past month arts advocates from fifty states have sent over 26,000 messages to their Members of Congress calling for this $35 million increase to the NEA. That is in addition to the hundreds of lobbying visits made to congressional offices during Arts Advocacy Day in March and the many phone calls made directly to their congressional offices. Thank you for your incredible hard work. We would not have achieved this terrific outcome without you. Next Steps Next month our attention will shift to the U.S. Senate and to President Bush. The Senate Interior bill offers more limited support for the NEA than the House version and these differences will have to be worked out in a conference committee.
Further complicating things, President Bush has already threatened a veto on this spending bill. It all makes for a very exciting autumn appropriations season! Thank you again for your continued support of the arts!
Americans for the Arts
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