Arts Groups Turn to Republicans in Fight to Help Save NEA, NEH

With the Trump administration looking to make dramatic cuts to domestic discretionary spending, including the possible elimination of the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, Republicans from red states could be decisive in saving federal funding for the arts, the New York Times reports.

When it is released, the Trump administration's final budget proposal is likely to test both Democrats and those Republicans who have defended arts spending from a decades-long effort by conservatives to cut funding for, and even eliminate, the two agencies. Because federal agencies, by law, are unable to lobby legislators, the fight to save the NEA, NEH, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting will fall, according to the Times, to advocacy groups such as PEN America, the American Alliance of Museums, Americans for the Arts, and the Federation of State Humanities Councils — all of which plan to flood congressional offices with messages from their members over the next few weeks.

"In the past, moderate Republicans have played a pivotal role in these fights," said PEN America executive director Suzanne Nossel. "Part of it is figuring out who is going to be the 2017 version of this."

While powerful Republicans such as House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have spoken in favor of eliminating the NEA, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) were among twenty-four senators who signed a letter to the White House advocating on their behalf. Collins said in a statement that she continues "to believe there is bipartisan support for the arts and humanities, and I will work to encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to maintain this important funding." Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who organized the letter, acknowledged to the Times that persuading other Republicans to join the effort will be a heavy lift but said she intended to approach all senators, possibly starting with those who are parents and may appreciate the educational programming made possible by the endowments and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The first skirmishes over funding for the agencies will happen in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, an eleven-member committee led by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) that includes seven Republicans.

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), who co-chairs the House arts and humanities caucuses, told the Times that whatever Trump's final budget proposes, "it's the appropriations process that matters....If it were to happen that it is not in the budget document, I would fight in the appropriation process to continue the funding."

Graham Bowley. "How to Block Trump Arts Cuts? Groups Look for G.O.P. Help." New York Times 02/28/2017.