The House Overwhelmingly Rejects a Republican Proposal to Slash Funding for the NEA and NEH

The amendment to the 2019 federal budget proposed a 15 percent cut to the agencies.

Photo: Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images.

The House of Representatives has decisively rejected a proposal to cut funding for the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities by 15 percent. Representative Glenn Grothman, Republican of Wisconsin, put forward an amendment to the government funding bill that would have cut each agency’s budget by $23 million in 2019. But on Wednesday, the proposal was sent to a resounding defeat by a vote of 297 to 114.

In a House Rules Committee hearing on Tuesday night, Grothman had voiced his support for President Trump’s plan to scrap both agencies, calling his proposed cuts a small step towards limiting government spending. The representative said that it isn’t the federal government’s responsibility to provide arts funding, arguing that arts programs should be sponsored by private organizations or local government. 

In response to the Grothman’s plan, arts advocacy groups like Americans for the Arts pointed out that the NEA’s modest $153 million budget makes up a mere 0.0004 percent of federal spending. The groups argued that even with limited resources, the NEA’s investment in the arts contributes crucial resources to sustain America’s $764 billion culture industry, which supports 4.9 million jobs and makes up 4.2 percent of annual GDP.  In addition, opponents said that the proposed budget cuts would have disproportionately affected residents of small towns and rural communities who would otherwise be excluded from the arts.

In March, arts and humanities organizations breathed a collective sigh of relief when Congress passed a new spending bill that approved an unexpected $3 million increase in federal funding for the NEA and NEH, despite President Trump’s threats to cut funding for the agencies.

If the failure of Grothman’s budget amendment was a clear win for the agencies, the outcome may also be a victory for US veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Variety, Representative Ken Calvert, Republican of California, argued on the House floor on Tuesday that the NEA’s art therapy programs were helping military veterans recover from PTSD. Calvert, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, and ranking member Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, are leading a bipartisan effort to increase the budget of the agencies to $155 million in the 2019 fiscal year.

This article has been updated to reflect the latest developments.

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