In light of the president’s refusal to allocate funds for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, several Republican lawmakers are now expressing their support for the programs, according to a report by Michael Cooper and Sopan Deb in the New York Times.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Republican from Alaska who is the chair of a Senate appropriations panel that oversees the endowments, said in a statement: “I believe we can find a way to commit to fiscal responsibility while continuing to support the important benefits that NEA and NEH provide.” Since 1995, the endowment has sent more than $18 million in grants to Alaska. Partly due to its small population, the state ranks near the top when it comes to arts grants per capita.
Two other Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, signed a letter last month urging continued support for the endowments, which together are funded by $300 million a year. A spokeswoman for Senator Capito, who is on the Appropriations Committee, said Friday that she would “advocate for her priorities, including funding for the arts and humanities, which are important to our economy and communities.” Representative Mark Amodei, a Republican from Nevada who is on the House Appropriations Subcommittee, with jurisdiction over the endowments budgets, said in a statement, “I support the present level of funding for these programs.”
The chairman of the House panel is Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA). In a statement, Calvert said that with the government approaching $20 trillion in debt, he would take “all sides into account” as he works on the budget—but he noted that he recognizes that “the NEA and NEH have a lot of support from the American people and members of Congress.”
The arts endowment sends grants to every congressional district in the nation and in 2016, the agency said, it recommended twenty-four hundred grants in sixteen thousand communities. Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ), who is cochairman of the Congressional Arts Caucus, said that as he tries to drum up support for the arts endowments among his colleagues, he is focusing on the jobs they support not just in the arts field but in tourism, restaurants, and other sectors as well.
Next week, Congress will hear from hundreds of activists who were already planning to gather in Washington, DC, on Monday and Tuesday to lobby for the arts. Robert L. Lynch, the president of arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts, said, “We will hit every congressional office, every senatorial office, with our message.”