The Bush administration, seeking to quiet the clamor over government funding of allegedly obscene art, will seek a one-year interim budget for the National Endowment for the Arts instead of five years, a White House spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Deputy press secretary Alixe Glen called it "the prudent thing to do."It will allow an independent commission time to review the arts agency's grantmaking procedures, she said.
The White House had been seeking a five-year budget reauthorization for the arts agency with no restrictions on its grantmaking procedures.
But conservatives on Capitol Hill have sought to write new restrictions into law to prevent the agency from patronizing what they view as obscene or blasphemous art such as exhibits of the late Robert Mapple-thorpe's homoerotic photographs or Andres Serrano's shot of a crucifix in urine.
President Bush has said previously he opposed legal restrictions on the NEA's grantmaking authority but preferred to rely on the good judgment of NEA Chairman John Frohnmayer.
A 12-member advisory commission was meeting Wednesday for the first time to review the agency's grant-making procedures.
"By calling for a one-year reauthorization, we are basically doing the prudent thing," said Glen.
She said that this approach is intended to ensure that the arts endowment does not run out of funds over the next year and it "provides the independent arts commission time to do its study and report back to the president."
"Given the political climate, this isn't something we want to do hastily," she said.
"Our position remains that we would like to see a five-year, clean reauthorization with no restrictions," she said, but that did not appear possible now.
The one-year plan was decided upon at a meeting Tuesday including White House officials and Frohnmayer, who told The Washington Post it affords a chance to come up with "a reasonable solution rather than a hysterical response."
The endowment has been embroiled in debate over federal funding of the arts and freedom of expression since June 1989 because of grants awarded for an exhibit of Mapplethorpe photographs that some considered obscene.