The House of Representatives has restored funding to the National Endowment for the Arts at a level of $98 million. The money was reinstated through an amendment proposed by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT). The measure passed by a vote of 253-173.
As expected, conservative Congressmen on the House Rules Committee had introduced a new rule late on July 20 to remove NEA funding from the Interior Appropriations bill. The bill had reached the Rules Committee with $98 million allotted to the agency by the House Interior Appropriations Committee. However, upon the bill's arrival, Republican leaders reiterated their commitment to various right-wing groups to eliminate the agency. As a political gesture to these constituents, conservative members of the committee constructed a new rule which prevented an Interior bill complete with NEA monies from proceeding to the House floor.
The NEA, like many government organizations, is not an authorized organization. As such, it technically can not be funded. This technicality, however, has little practical meaning and is routinely waived.
“The House vote is both a real and symbolic victory for the Arts Endowment and its bipartisan supporters,” said NEA Chairman Bill Ivey. “The old debate over the existence of the NEA finally has given way to a more thoughtful dialogue about the appropriate level of federal arts funding in America.”
The Senate, traditionally more supportive of the NEA, has set agency funding at $100 million for fiscal year 1999. No date has been set for a Senate vote on the budget bill. The two versions of the bill must be reconciled before they can proceed to the president's desk for signing into law. -- By Robert SimonsonThe