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Eleven House Republicans Sign Letter In Support of National Endowment for the the Arts (NEA)

Posted on: Apr 17, 2017

This story was first published in the New York Times:

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) is chairman of the House Subcommittee responsible for appropriating funds for the NEA
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) is chairman of the House Subcommittee responsible for appropriating funds for the NEA

Eleven Republican Members of the House of Representatives have signed a letter calling for a slight increase in federal funds to the endowment — a far cry from its elimination, which Mr. Trump is the first president ever to propose. President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts has caused great anxiety for arts advocates, especially given that Republicans control both houses of Congress and many conservatives have long loathed the agency. But almost immediately after the president submitted his budget proposal in mid-March, a handful of Republicans put themselves forward as favoring the preservation of the endowment. And the list of vocal Republican allies has slowly grown in recent weeks.

Eleven House Republicans are now among more than 150 members of Congress who have signed a letter calling for a slight increase in federal funds to the endowment — a far cry from its elimination, which Mr. Trump is the first president to propose.

The signatories, who include one Republican who previously voted to defund public broadcasting, sent the letter to Representative Ken Calvert, Republican of California, and Representative Betty McCollum, Democrat of Minnesota. Mr. Calvert is the chairman of the House subcommittee tasked with appropriating funds to cultural endowments, while Ms. McCollum is the top ranking Democrat on it. The annual budget for the arts endowment is currently at about $148 million. The letter calls for funding to be increased to $155 million.

Mr. Calvert declined to comment. Supporters of the endowment still face an uphill battle, given the Republican control of government. However, for the most vocal supporters of the arts, this is a welcome start.

“This bipartisan effort is really important because the president’s proposed cuts to federal arts funding would be absolutely devastating,” said Representative Louise Slaughter, Democrat of New York and co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, in a statement. “I’m proud to have more Republicans join us in this effort than we’ve ever had in recent years. This is a signal loud and clear to the White House that Republicans and Democrats agree these budget cuts would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.”