WASHINGTON — Republicans cleared a hurdle Tuesday with a proposal that would effectively eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Republicans have tried before to kill the agency, which distributes grants to artists nationwide. A 1995 effort caused a split within the GOP, and the endowment managed to survive with reduced funding.
The new effort withstood an initial challenge by Democrats on a House Appropriations subcommittee. The panel voted 6-5, along party lines, to give the NEA just $10 million next year.
The agency received $99.5 million in funding this year, and the $10 million is what NEA officials say they would need to close down.
In a written statement, NEA Chairwoman Jane Alexander defended her agency, which has come under fire for grants that many conservatives have found objectionable.
“Today’s action reflects the House Republican leadership’s misguided effort to shut down an agency that richly serves our communities,” Alexander said. “This is just the first round in a battle that once again puts politics above the will of the American people.”
Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, said, “I support the arts and the humanities. However, I believe that during an era of fiscal belt-tightening, funding of the NEA by the federal government should not be a top priority.”