The National Endowment for the Arts is banking on the Senate to keep the agency's budget whole after Democrats managed to limit conservative-backed cuts to 2 percent.
In a sometimes fiery showdown between endowment supporters and foes, the House voted 222-204 Thursday to trim a 5 percent cut conservatives sought in the agency's spending to just 2 percent. Earlier, it rejected Republican attempts to cut the agency's $171 million budget in half or eliminate it entirely."Today's vote confirms what I have witnessed across this country: Americans recognize the positive force of the arts in our neighborhoods, in our schools and in our communities," NEA Chairman Jane Alexander said.
Conservatives have made the arts agency an annual target, accusing it of financing works that many people consider obscene.
The Senate has yet to write its version of the legislation. But Sens. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Don Nickles, R-Okla., warned Alexander in a letter last week that NEA funds would be in "serious jeopardy" unless "such grossly improper activities" are avoided.
The NEA budget cut was part of a measure providing $13.2 billion for next year for the Interior Department and several smaller agencies. The overall legislation was approved 338-85.
Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah, voted to reduce the 5 percent cut to 2 percent. Reps. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, and Bill Orton, D-Utah, voted against reducing the cut.