House Appropriations Panel Delays Action on NEH Funding

After a lengthy debate,

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the House Appropriations Committee adjourned for the August recess without taking a final vote on a fiscal 2014 Interior and Environment bill. The committee intends to take it up again in September. The bill includes a 49 percent ($71 million) cut to the NEH, down from the fiscal 2013 level of $146 million.

During the markup, Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) and David Price (D-NC) offered an amendment that would fund the NEH at the Administration’s requested level of $154.4 million. The amendment was defeated on a party-line vote, with all Democrats on the panel voting in favor and all Republicans voting against.

This battle will continue into the fall, as this bill moves forward in the House and the Senate considers its own Interior and Environment spending bill. It is vital that our community demonstrate support for the NEH in Congress so the cuts are not included in a continuing resolution. And looming over the whole appropriations process is a possible government shutdown and another round of across-the-board sequester cuts should Congress fail to enact a budget.

Our colleagues at the National Humanities Alliance have prepared a grassroots alert that allows you to send a message to your senators and representative in support of NEH funding. It is important that your elected officials hear from you and your friends and colleagues. You can send a message by clicking here.

At the markup, there was also discussion of the bill’s elimination of federal funding for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Representative Price offered and then withdrew an amendment to restore funding to the Wilson Center. In fiscal 2013, the Wilson Center received $11 million and the Obama administration had requested $10.5 million for fiscal 2014.

Offering the amendment allowed committee members to discuss the issue and withdrawing the amendment gave Republicans the opportunity to put the funding back into the bill at some point down the road. A recorded vote would have made it more difficult to reverse course and provide funding at a later date.

A number of committee members from both sides of the aisle spoke in favor of restoring funding to the Wilson Center. Although the Wilson Center receives “well over half” of its current budget from non-appropriated sources, according to its budget request, it leverages federal money to solicit private contributions, which will likely dry up if the federal money disappears.

Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID), chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, agreed that the organization does important work. Simpson conceded there will likely be funding added for the Wilson Center further along in the legislative process. So it appears there is a tacit agreement between the majority and minority that the Wilson Center will be funded when the bill goes to the floor or is included the inevitable fiscal 2014 continuing resolution.

A draft Interior and the Environment FY ’14 funding bill and committee report were released by the Senate Appropriations Committee prior to the August recess. It provides $154.4 million for the NEH, the amount requested by the Administration for FY ’14. In addition, the bill provides $10.5 million for the Wilson Center, again the same amount requested by the Administration.

Nonetheless, the scorched-earth approach towards the NEH and Woodrow Wilson Center in the House

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is indicative of the difficulties we face in securing humanities- and history-related funding across the board.