Thursday, July 9, 2015

The House has postponed further consideration of the FY 2016 Interior Appropriations bill (H.R. 2822). This annual bill provides funding to cultural agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The House postponed final passage due to strong controversy surrounding voice-voted provisions impacting the display of Confederate flags on certain graves in federal cemeteries and on merchandise within contractual National Park Service (NPS) gift shops.

With debate lasting into the wee hours of the morning and over three days, arts and culture were mentioned many times:

  • Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) referenced both the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) during opening debate as deserving of additional federal funding;
  • Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) offered an amendment to increase funding for the Smithsonian Institution ($1.5 million increase) and made mention of its outreach programs to local museums and mobile museums. She later got a provision included to encourage more of this outreach;
  • Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) offered an amendment concerning an ivory provision and noted discussion about musical instruments’ impact;
  • Cultural heritage also played a key role. Rep. Jackson Lee offered another amendment about NPS work to preserve historic sites for the inspiration and benefit of all Americans, which was accepted.

Whether final bills are resolved before the end of the fiscal year on September 30th remains unclear. Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate continue to propose level funding (at $146 million) for each the NEA and NEH.