The first political issue on the agenda of new NEA Chair Bill Ivey will be the predominant one faced by his recent predecessors: the budget. Though, after 10 year of fighting, it might seem passe, certain Republican legislators are still intent on eliminating the agency. On June 18, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which sets funding for the NEA, repeated its action of last year by allotted the agency no money for fiscal year 1999.
The legislation to "zero out" the agency came from Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-Ohio). Longtime NEA champion Rep. Sidney Yates (D-Illinois) proposed an amendment to fund the agency at $110 million, but Regula called for a voice vote on the measure and it was defeated.
A spokesman for Rep. Yates said the Congressman planned to reintroduce the amendment in full committee, possibly as early as next week. Yates also intends to bring the issue to the House floor. A call to Rep. Regula's office was not returned by press time.
The NEA's ongoing fight for survival officially became Ivey's headache on June 17, when he was sworn in by Vice President Al Gore. "We've known for some time that the House leadership planned yet another attempt to target the Endowment," said Ivey, "but strong bipartisan support for this agency, in Congress and around the country, will once again win out."
Ivey has stepped down as director of the Country Music Foundation, a post he has held since 1971. He succeeds Jane Alexander, who resigned from the NEA in October 1997 after heading it for four years. Ivey will oversee the body that grants millions of federal dollars to arts groups throughout the U.S., and which has come under fire, mainly from right-wing groups and politicians, for support of what has been seen as controversial artworks. -- By Robert Simonson