As expected, conservative Congressmen on the House of Representatives Rules Committee introduced a new rule late on July 20 to remove NEA funding from the Interior Appropriations bill. The measure will now proceed to the floor of the House, perhaps as early as July 21, where NEA supporters will most likely propose an amendment restoring the funds.
Things had looked deceptively rosy for the NEA in June, when, after the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee awarded no money to the agency, the full committee reestablished funding at $98 million. However, upon the bill's reaching the House Rules Committee, 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 Rules 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 Senate, traditionally more supportive of the NEA, has set agency funding at $100 million for fiscal year 1999.
In 1997, the budget bill reached the House floor with no money earmarked for the NEA. At that time, the House Rules Committee had attached a proviso to the bill precluding the introduction of any amendment which might re-fund the NEA. The matter dragged on into late fall and was eventually resolved in conference. -- By Robert Simonson