Trump Again Proposes Drastic Cuts to Federal History and Humanities Programs in FY19

On February 12, President Trump sent his budget request to Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2019. Like last year, it proposes devastating cuts to federal humanities and history funding, including elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and several key education and preservation programs. To see detailed numbers for agencies and programs affecting our interests, click here.

The major point to remember is that Congress ultimately controls appropriations, not the president. In addition, Trump’s request does not take into account the $132 billion increase in nondefense discretionary spending over the next two budget cycles that Congress authorized in its most recent continuing resolution to keep the government operating.

Leaders of both parties have pronounced Trump’s FY19 budget “dead on arrival,” and these draconian cuts are unlikely to pass. Quite simply, the president is appealing to his base by paying lip service to downsizing the government, while not proposing a realistic budget for Congress to use as a starting point. For example, Trump’s proposed elimination of four cultural agencies, even if enacted, would have a miniscule impact on the deficit. According to the Washington Post the budgets for the NEH, IMLS, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting combined account for less than $1 billion of the $4.4 trillion federal budget.

Our community can and should fight vigorously against these proposed cuts, but there is no need to panic. We need to focus our attention, as we always have, on the appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over the programs that affect our constituents. The budget process is complex, as you can see in this chart from NEH, but NCH will be advocating for history-related agencies every step of the way. We have built lasting relationships in Congress over the years that we can draw upon, including the History Caucus in the House.

Your voice had an impact last year – while a final FY18 budget has not yet been passed, the House and Senate appropriations committees have largely ignored Trump’s previous request and continued to fund our key programs and agencies at generally close to level funding. We need to keep up the pressure on Congress to ensure that the same happens this year.

Once again, in collaboration with our colleagues at the National Humanities Alliance, we are issuing our initial legislative alerts asking you to contact your Members of Congress. We will try not to overload you with similar requests, but when we do be assured it is important for you to act promptly.