11 House Republicans Come Out in Favor of the National Endowment for the Arts, Opposing Trump

In fact, they propose to increase funding for the embattled agency.

Even in a strongly conservative House of Representatives, there is support to be found for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

In a budget proposal put forth in March that included increases in military spending and stark cuts to various social programs, President Donald Trump pledged to zero out funding for the NEA along with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and other agencies. But he’s getting pushback from quarters where he might have unexpected unwavering support.

A letter signed by 11 House Republicans urges Ken Calvert and Betty McCollum, chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, to continue funding the NEA.

They propose a budget of $155 million in fiscal year 2018, a slight increase over the $147.9 million that was allocated in 2016.

The Republican signatories are Leonard Lance (Co-Chair of the Arts Caucus with Louise M. Slaughter); Steve Stivers (Ohio), David McKinley (West Virginia), John Katko (New York), Elise Stefanik (New York), Dan Donovan (New York), Barbara Comstock (Virginia); Ryan Costello (Pennsylvania); Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania), John Faso (New York), and Mike Turner (Ohio).

“Federal investment in the arts provides all Americans with expanded opportunities to engage with the arts in each state and district,” the letter says. “The NEA reached its peak funding at $176 million in [fiscal year] 92, and has never fully recovered from a 40 percent budget cut in [fiscal year] 96.”

President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and other cultural agencies. Photo Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and other cultural agencies. Photo Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

As if to take advantage of Trump’s desire to better fund the military to garner his support, the signatories point out that the NEA has partnered with the Department of Defense to bring therapeutic arts activities to veterans, along with current servicemen and women and their families.

The signatories also make the familiar argument that money invested in the arts brings economic benefits in the form of jobs and tax revenues as well as exports that, say the signatories, results in a $26 billion arts trade surplus. Moreover, they say that strong arts education helps young students to score higher on tests and be more likely to stay in school.

They’re not the first members of the GOP to come out in favor of continued NEA funding. As far back as February, after reports that Trump aimed to put the NEA and other cultural agencies on the chopping block, Republicans Shelly Moore Capito (West Virginia) Susan M. Collins (Maine) signed on to a letter spearheaded by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urging Trump to continue federal funding for cultural programs. They joined prominent democrats such as Bernie Sanders (Vermont) Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Dianne Feinstein (California), and Al Franken (Minnesota).

“I believe we can find a way to commit to fiscal responsibility while continuing to support the important benefits that N.E.A. and N.E.H. provide,” said Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski in a statement given to the New York Times in March.

The full letter is below:

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