NASAA Notes: June 2013

June 7, 2013

How to Nominate an NEA Chairman

With America’s arts community eager to see whom the president will nominate to lead the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), I thought it might be instructive to give you an overview of what the confirmation process entails.

The process begins with President Obama formally submitting his choice to the Senate. Because the chairmanship of the NEA is a cabinet-level appointment, the Senate has the constitutional authority to consider and approve the selection.

Once the president makes his choice, the Obama administration will choose an aide to shepherd his choice through the nomination process. Their first step will be to meet with members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the body that has jurisdiction over the nomination of the NEA chair. These meetings are critical to the process, as they allow each member of the committee the opportunity in private to air any concerns he or she may have with the nominee’s record.

Once those meetings have transpired, the chairman of the HELP Committee, Tom Harkin (D-IA), will schedule and hold a confirmation hearing, where the nominee will make a presentation to the panel and take questions on the record and in public. A vote on the nomination does not take place at this time, as a grace period is given to members to allow for follow-up.

When the chairman of the HELP Committee feels that members of the committee have had adequate opportunity to question the nominee, he will call a vote of the committee. Should the committee approve the nomination, the full Senate will hold a vote. Unlike members of the HELP Committee, there is not the same opportunity to meet with the nominee ahead of time. Usually, once the HELP Committee has approved the nomination, the full chamber votes soon afterward. Of course, if any senator has a strong concern, he or she will have the opportunity to meet with the nominee in the hope of avoiding a contentious vote on the Senate floor.

Because the position of chairman of the NEA is vacant, immediately upon passage in the Senate, the president’s nominee will become the institution’s 11th chair.

It is always difficult to predict how long the full process will take. Once President Obama nominated Rocco Landesman, it took three months to complete the Senate process. Under normal circumstances, I would expect the process to take a similar length of time; however, we are now in June, and the next two months are often the Senate’s busiest period as it tries to pass a budget and deal with other priority issues for members, such as reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In addition, the Senate is out of session for the month of August, so even if the president announced his selection next week, it is quite possible that we would have to wait until the fall for the process to be completed.

As arts advocates, we have the opportunity to play an important role in the nomination process. As soon as a nominee is named, I urge you to contact the senators in your state to let them know how you feel the president’s selection will impact the NEA. This is especially important for members represented by senators who sit on the HELP Committee:

Democrats (by seniority)

Tom Harkin (IA)
Barbara A. Mkulski (MD)
Patty Murray (WA)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA)
Kay R. Hagan (NC)
Al Franken (MN)
Michael F. Bennet (CO)
Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
Tammy Baldwin (WI)
Christopher S. Murphy (CT)
Elizabeth Warren (MA)

Republicans (by seniority)

Lamar Alexander (TN)
Michael B. Enzi (WY)
Richard Burr (NC)
Johnny Isakson (GA)
Rand Paul (KY)
Orrin G. Hatch (UT)
Pat Roberts (KS)
Lisa Murkowski (AK)
Mark Kirk (IL)
Tim Scott (SC)

Once the nominee is named, NASAA will be reaching out to members of the HELP Committee to ensure that issues of importance to state arts agencies are raised, both in private and during the public hearing. NASAA will keep you up to speed as developments occur.

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

More Notes from NASAA

Executive Director's Column

Research on Demand




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