July 19, 2000

But Effort Fails, and Senate Votes to Retain Increase Approved by Committee

The Senate passed the FY2001 Interior Appropriations bill on July 18th by a vote of 97-2. The $15.514 billion bill ($800 million less than the President’s request) specifically includes a $7.3 million dollar increase for the National Endowment for the Arts, bringing its funding level to $105 million. It also includes a $5 million increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities providing $120.2 million for that agency, and the museum services portion of the Institute of Museum and Library Services has been allocated an increase of $600,000.

However, before the Senate passed the full Interior Appropriations bill, Oklahoma Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Don Nickles (R-OK) offered an amendment to transfer the NEA’s $7.3 million increase to an unrelated account involving Indian Health Services. This amendment was overwhelmingly defeated by a vote of 73 to 27. Senator Gorton (R-WA) led the fight to defeat this amendment, noting that the NEA had not received an increase in eight years, it had undergone significant reforms, and that while the $7 million increase was largely symbolic, it was well deserved. He then reiterated his earlier assertion that the Senate would not recede to the House on the issue of NEA funding this year.

Senator Grams (MN) voted in favor of the cut.
Senator Wellstone (MN) voted against it.

On July 10th, Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), Chairman of the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, made the following strong opening statement directed at the House leadership that firmly stated his position regarding the Senate’s unwavering support for the NEA:

“With respect to the cultural agencies funded in this bill, I am pleased to note that funding for the National Endowment for the Arts is increased by $7 million, and funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities is increased by $5 million. While these increases are fairly modest, they are indicative of the widespread support that these two agencies have within the Senate. The increases also reflect the degree to which the Endowments have responded to congressional concerns about the types of activities being funded, and the way in which project funding decisions are made. While last year we were not able to maintain the higher Senate funding levels in conference with the House, I fully intend to maintain the increases provided for the Endowments in the final FY 2001 bill. I will put the leadership of the other body on notice now that the Senate has no intention of receding on this matter.”

Next Steps: House and Senate conferees begin to hammer out differences within the Interior Appropriations bill. The goal is to pressure the House to accept the Senate’s higher funding level, which includes a $7 million increase to the NEA.