Debate on NEH Funding/FY 2012 Interior Spending Bill Suspended

Further House consideration of the FY 2012 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies spending bill (HR 2584) has been postpned until after the August congressional recess, leaving general floor debate on funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) – including a crucial vote on an amendment to cut NEH – unconcluded.

Source: National Humanities Alliance.

The House began debate on the Interior spending bill on July 25, but suspended work in the middle of consideration of the section of the bill dealing with NEH (Title III/Related Agencies: National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities).

Just prior to adjournment, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), introduced an amendment to reduce funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) by $13,500,000 (H.AMDT.769). The session ended without opportunity for other Members to speak for or against the measure, leaving debate on the NEH funding open – and the first issue to be considered – when the House resumes debate on the bill. Further debate on HR 2584 was postponed pending resolution of the federal debt ceiling issues. Congress worked through the weekend, and while there was some possibility of returning to the Interior bill, it now appears unlikely that the House will resume debate until September, when it returns from August recess.

Prior to introduction of the anti-NEH amendment, floor debate had just concluded on an amendment offered by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) by $10,600,000 (H.AMDT.768), and an earlier amendment offered by Rep. Broun to cut funding for the Smithsonian by $55,624,000 (H.AMDT.767). Several members of Congress spoke in opposition to both amendments, including Reps. Mike Simpson (R/ID) and Jim Moran (D/VA) — the Chairman, and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. Both amendments failed by voice vote; recorded votes were requested and held on July 28. The Walberg amendment to cut the Arts Endowment (NEA) funding failed by a vote of 181 – 240, including 55 Republicans and all Democrats present voting against (Roll Call Vote No. 670).

On July 25th, the House had already rejected one amendment that would have eliminated NEH funding altogether. The measure (H.AMDT.715), offered by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), would have reduced funding in the Interior bill by $3 billion in various accounts, including $1.9 billion in EPA spending, as well as complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts (among other programs). The Huelskamp amendment was defeated by a recorded vote of 284 to 126 (including 105 Republicans and all Democrats present voting against) (Roll Call Vote No. 633).

If/when debate on the Interior bill begins again, the Co-Chairs of the House Humanities Caucus, Reps. Tom Petri (R-WI) and David Price (D-NC) – along with the leaders of the Congressional Arts Caucus – are still planning to coordinate a bipartisan “strike the last word” effort to provide Members the opportunity to oppose NEH/NEA cuts and voice support for the arts and humanities. Several Members have already made floor remarks in support of both agencies over the past week.

Funding Overview – The FY 2012 House Interior bill, as reported out of Committee, provides $135 million in FY 2012 funding for the agency ($19.7 million less than the current level, and $11.3 million below the President’s Request). If implemented, the cuts proposed in the House bill would lower NEH funding to its FY 2004 funding level. Adjusted for inflation, it would be the lowest budget for the agency since 1971. For detail on funding provided for NEH in the bill, click here.