January 3, 2022
President, Congress Trudge Ahead
As Congress returns to session this week, the stakes for President Biden and Democratic leadership couldn’t be higher. As outlined in my last column, President Biden had hoped that by the end of December he would be able to tout passage of the Build Back Better Act, the signature bill of his legislative agenda, as well as the enactment of the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill that would mark his administration’s spending priorities and set the direction of its agenda. Despite intense work and lobbying, Congress was unable to reach agreements that would permit enactment of either priority and, as a result, the year begins with a great deal of work left to be done. The pressure to find common ground that will allow each to become law is higher than ever before, as 2022 is an election year for every member of the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate.
Off-year elections, known as the midterms, have historically been challenging for the President’s party, and the failure to pass these bills will only enhance that concern. As a result, I expect the President and congressional leadership to make another significant push this month. Arts advocates are paying very close to attention to the negotiations around the FY2022 appropriations bill. The continuing resolution signed in December extends current federal funding until February 18, meaning that Congress should have enough time to resolve remaining differences. These discussions are critical because, while the House and Senate have both put forward proposals to significantly increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (showing continued support of the federal-state partnership), those increases will not be realized until Congress passes the FY2022 budget bill. In the meantime, while continuing resolutions are in place, the Endowment will continue to operate under its existing funding level of $167.5 million.
It is important to note that the Biden administration is already preparing the President’s budget request for FY2023. Under a normal time line, the President would release this document at the end of January when he delivers his State of the Union address. Because the FY2022 budget is still in limbo, it is unlikely that proposal will be seen anytime soon.
Although negotiations around the funding level for the Arts Endowment are likely settled, it’s still a good idea to reach out to your congressional delegation to touch base and begin a dialogue for the upcoming legislative session. As you reach out, here are some points you can consider raising:
- Urge your member of Congress to support the House’s proposed FY2022 budget for the National Endowment for the Arts of $201 million. (The Senate proposed $182.5 million.) Both represent a significant increase over the agency’s current level.
- Especially because this is a time of turnover for congressional staff, it is helpful to mention the unprecedented partnership between the Endowment and states that directs 40% of the agency’s grant funding to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations.
- Emphasize that public funding for the arts and creativity is a high-return investment that strengthens every city, town and rural community in the nation.
- Take the occasion to update the member of Congress about exciting developments at your agency. If there is the opportunity to invite them to join you for an event (even virtually), please consider doing so as it is a great way to help draw the connection to federal funding and to work taking place in their district.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact NASAA with any questions about how to approach a particular office. There is no doubt that this consistent engagement has paid huge dividends in building strong, bipartisan support for the Endowment and for arts policy generally. Thank you for continued dedication.
In this Issue
From the President and CEO
State to State
The Research Digest
Announcements and Resources
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