Congress Moving Quickly: NEA FY16

June 18, 2015

Congress Moving Quickly: NEA FY16 Budget Advances

Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) may be up for consideration by the full U.S. House of Representatives as early as next week. Orchestras are contacting Congress as the House and Senate have been speedily determining spending priorities within the Interior Appropriations bill that funds the NEA.

Steady Progress So far
Bipartisan support for the NEA was evident in the spending levels approved this week by both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, which each approved $146 million in level funding for the NEA, even as the committees wrestled with the limitations of spending caps and decreased spending in other areas. Unlike recent years in which the House Subcommittee approved cuts of up to 49% of the NEA's budget, level funding was fully preserved during committee consideration this week. Provisions to increase the NEA's budget by $2 million, as requested by President Obama, were offered by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) during House committee consideration on June 16, and by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) when the Senate committee met today, but did not receive approval by either committee. 

Potential for First Votes by Full House and Senate in Years
Broader budget stalemates have prevented individual spending bills from advancing to floor consideration in recent years, resulting in catch-all spending measures to keep the government in operation. This year the process takes on a new form, allowing more opportunities for funding to receive full consideration by all members of Congress. With one party controlling both the House and Senate, it is possible for bills to move through committee to floor consideration by each chamber, but the measures will face familiar barriers to completion as the White House and Congressional minority object to an array of controversial policy provisions. On the Senate side, Appropriations Committee members noted that this week is the first time an Interior funding bill has been passed by that committee since 2009. In the House, the last up-or-down vote related to NEA funding on the House floor took place in 2011. The House is likely to act soonest, with votes on the Interior bill possible as early as next week.

More Votes = More Advocacy
The League advocates on behalf of orchestras in support of NEA funding throughout the year. In March, we joined with Opera America in presenting Melia Tourangeau, President & CEO of the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, to offer testimony before the House Interior Subcommittee, and the next month, the League submitted its annual written testimony to the Senate, highlighting the work of orchestra grantees throughout the country. In advance of recent committee action, orchestras in the districts and states of House and Senate committee members have been telling their members of Congress how the NEA provides critical funding for projects that increase access to music in communities nationwide.

Orchestra advocates can use the League's advocacy center to weigh in with Congress and describe how NEA funding supports arts education for children and adults, expands public access to performances, and nurtures the creative endeavors of artists throughout the country.

The League will keep you informed of key advocacy opportunities as the timing for votes on NEA funding is confirmed!