Trump Threatens to Derail Congress’s Coronavirus Relief Bill Unless Funding for the Smithsonian and Other Cultural Institutions Is Cut

The funding for the museums is actually part of the government's annual budget, not the relief bill.

A man makes his way toward the east building of the National Gallery of Art, July 9, 2019. Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

President Donald Trump is threatening to hold up the coronavirus relief bill unless Congress agrees to boost one-time checks to Americans and aid to small businesses, and to remove items he considers wasteful spending from the federal budget. Among the expenses he has singled out is money earmarked for cultural institutions in Washington, DC.

In a video posted last night, Trump addressed the nation about the more than 5,000-page bill containing the $900 billion COVID relief package, passed as part of a larger omnibus spending package meant to fund the entire US government through September 2021. “It really is a disgrace,” Trump said. “It’s called the ‘COVID Relief Bill,’ but it has almost nothing to do with COVID.”

He then reeled off items he deemed to be egregious, including foreign aid and wildlife research. Prominently featured on his list was “$40 million for the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, which is not even open for business; $1 billion for the Smithsonian, and an additional $154 million for the National Gallery of Art—likewise, these facilities are not open.”

“The funding for the National Gallery of Art in the recent bill passed by Congress is our regular annual federal appropriation for operations and repairs. It is not part of the COVID relief package,” a representative of the NGA told Artnet News. “The National Gallery is grateful to the President and Congress for their continued support of our work at the nation’s art museum.”

The budget appropriations for the DC arts institutions are in line with what they typically receive.

“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 dollars to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple,” Trump said, referring to the emergency checks in the relief package. “I am also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package, and maybe that administration will be me, and we will get it done. Thank you very much.”

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