September 11, 2018
NEA FY2019 Increase Waits in the Wings
The House and Senate returned to session last week, after adjourning in August for the summer recess. They come back for an uncertain period of time, as the midterm elections are approaching and members from both parties want to head home for as long as possible to campaign for themselves and their colleagues.
There are, of course, a few things that Republican leadership and President Trump want to accomplish first. On the top of the agenda for Republicans this fall is completing the nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh spent most of the month of August meeting with as many senators as he could; the traditional first step in any confirmation is for the nominee to spend time alone (and off the record) with individual senators so that they may ask questions about the judge’s philosophy and views on key issues. The next step commenced last week, when the Senate Judiciary Committee began confirmation hearings, during which Judge Kavanaugh testifies publicly about issues relevant to his potential lifetime appointment to the court. Assuming those meetings go well, it is all but certain that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will schedule a vote by the full Senate before the end of the month, so that Kavanaugh can be seated on the court before their session begins in October.
The other issue facing Congress this month that must be addressed is funding for the federal government. The fiscal year ends on September 30, and while Congress has made considerable progress this year on passing their bills through regular order, it is very likely that leadership will have to approve a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown. That is because while there is agreement on most funding levels between the chambers, there remain some contentious issues that will be difficult to resolve so close to the election. The Interior Appropriations bill, which includes the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), is a perfect example of this challenge. Both the House and Senate approved increasing the NEA’s budget to $155 million, an increase of $2 million over its current level. However, when it passed its bill, the House included several non-funding related provisions, known as policy riders. Many of those riders, like the one preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing certain environmental regulations, are strongly opposed by Senate Democrats. The House and Senate are now meeting to try to resolve the differences between the two bills and both sides are standing firm on their positions, making a compromise before the September 30 deadline unlikely.
While the duration of the CR is not known, all reports indicate that it will extend until the middle of November, when Congress will resume work after the election. Should this scenario play out, it would mean that, at least for the duration of the CR, the NEA would continue to be funded at $153 million, and would not receive the increase supported in Congress for fiscal year 2019 until an agreement on a longer-term funding bill is completed. While the process continues to unfold, I think it worth noting that, once again, despite areas of contentious disagreement unfolding around it, the NEA continues to receive strong, bipartisan support. I know that is due entirely to the dedicated advocacy of our members and our partner organizations, and I want to say thank you for that. NASAA will keep you apprised in the weeks ahead and let you know whenever there is news to report.
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