WASHINGTON — The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to ride to the rescue of the National Endowment of the Arts today with a proposal to approve a $99 million budget for the arts agency.
If, as is expected, the Senate budget proposal for NEA is accepted, it will be a direct rebuff to conservative House Republicans who voted last week to kill the arts agency.
“They are not going to win this,” said Cherie Simon, referring to the effort by conservatives to abolish the NEA.
In addition to its broad support in the Senate, the NEA can also look to the White House for support. President Clinton has threaten to veto any legislation that does not provide money for the arts agency.
Next week, the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which is responsible for overseeing NEA, is expected to reauthorize the agency for a budget for $175 million in Fiscal Year 1998. The bill was introduced by Sens. James Jeffords (R-Vt.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). The bill also merges administrative functions of the NEA and its counterpart agency the National Endowment for the Humanities. Authorization bills tell agencies how they should spend their money, but only the appropriations committees can actually approve funds for spending.
Conservatives have targeted the NEA for extinction, claiming it funds elitist institutions and immoral art. The NEA has reformed its grant process during the past two years in an effort to respond to the critics. During the past 30 years the NEA has made more than 112,000 grants to artists and less than 50 of those awards have led to controversial projects, said Simon.