Page 3: Should Congress Expand--or Abolish--NEA?

In 1996, the Republican National Platform committed the party to abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

On July 15, 1997, the Republican-controlled House held true to that platform when it voted 238 to 192 for an Interior appropriation bill that eliminated all NEA funding. A House-Senate conference committee later restored the money.

That was the closest the Republicans ever came to abolishing an unnecessary federal program.

In the late 1980s, the agency became notorious for funding things such as Andres Serrano??¢â???¬â???¢s ??¢â???¬?????Piss Christ??¢â???¬  (a photo of a crucifix in a jar of urine). While avoiding explosive controversies in recent years, the NEA does now fund such projects as ??¢â???¬?????Outright Radio??¢â???¬ –a program that, according to its website, wants to produce dramas on same-sex love in monasteries and prisons.

In January, the administration announced it plan to increase NEA??¢â???¬â???¢s annual funding by about 15%–from $121 million to $139.4 million. Meanwhile, as reported in this week??¢â???¬â???¢s issue, a panel of conservative leaders has named the NEA the fifth worst government program of 2004.

HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor David Freddoso asked Republicans House members last week if they agreed with the 1996 platform, or the administration??¢â???¬â???¢s call to increase NEA funding.


The 1996 Republican platform stated that the National Endowment for the Arts should be defunded. Should this Congress do that, or increase its funding by 15% like the President wants to do?

SEN. JIM BUNNING (R.-KY.): We??¢â???¬â???¢re not doing that. You obviously didn??¢â???¬â???¢t go to the budget markup. They reduced the increase big time. So what else do you want to know.

You are against the funding increase?

BUNNING: Well, I may have a motion to strike what increase there is. But that??¢â???¬â???¢s to be debated right now.


The 1996 Republican platform stated that the party wanted to de-fund the National Endowment for the Arts. Should this Congress do that, or increase it by 15% like the President is asking?

REP. SHELLEY MOORE-CAPITO (R.-W.VA.): Well, I think we have to look at it in the context of, are there any changes that have been made since 1996 that would make us believe that what was causing people to want to have it de-funded in 1996 is no longer true? And I think, probably, yes, it is. My personal position is that I think arts, arts education, in my state of West Virginia, does some very good things. And so I believe that if we channel the money in the correct way, it can help the next generation. I think of it as an educational tool.

Congresswoman, what do you think has changed since 1996?

CAPITO: I think there??¢â???¬â???¢s more accountability. I??¢â???¬â???¢m going to tell you right now, I don??¢â???¬â???¢t know all of the in-depthness of it, I wasn??¢â???¬â???¢t here in 1996, but I think there??¢â???¬â???¢s probably more accountability certainly than some of the exhibits that were traveling the country. The endowment has probably learned their lesson at least partially, and realized that Congress appropriates and they??¢â???¬â???¢re not going to appropriate for inappropriate material.

Now that we have a much bigger deficit than we did in 1996, and a need for that money in other places like fighting terrorism, and a Republican Congress with a Republican President–you know, party of fiscal discipline and all that–doesn??¢â???¬â???¢t it seem like there??¢â???¬â???¢s less of a reason to increase funding for the NEA?

CAPITO: Well, yeah. I think there aren??¢â???¬â???¢t many parts of the budget besides Defense that are getting any increases, and so a 15% increase, in the light of the budgetary constraints we have, is too large probably.


In 1996, the Republican Platform called for de-funding of the National Endowment for the Arts. Should this Congress do that, or increase it by 15% the way the President is asking for?

REP. JEFF FLAKE (R.-ARIZ.): Oh, get rid of it. I??¢â???¬â???¢ve always been supportive of–we shouldn??¢â???¬â???¢t have federal funding for the arts. If state and local governments want to do that, it??¢â???¬â???¢s their prerogative??¢â???¬ ¦I??¢â???¬â???¢ve never voted for that appropriations bill.


The 1996 Republican platform stated that the National Endowment for the Arts should be defunded. Should this Congress do that, or should its budget be increased by 15% like President Bush is calling for?

REP. BOB NEY (R.-OHIO): I??¢â???¬â???¢m not for increasing the budget.

And in addition you wouldn??¢â???¬â???¢t be for increasing that part of the budget, either? The NEA part?

NEY: We??¢â???¬â???¢ve got tight times, so there are a lot of things we won??¢â???¬â???¢t be able to increase. Now, I??¢â???¬â???¢m not saying we??¢â???¬â???¢ll de-fund.

You think that??¢â???¬â???¢s going too far? Or you think it??¢â???¬â???¢s just not possible?

NEY: It??¢â???¬â???¢s not going to happen.

If you had your druthers, would you?

NEY: Let me give it to you from another perspective, perhaps. If people want total artistic freedom in this country, in a sense, then don??¢â???¬â???¢t have the government in there and then expect that you don??¢â???¬â???¢t get static. Let??¢â???¬â???¢s say we funded you, and then you said, ??¢â???¬?????Wait a minute, Bob, I??¢â???¬â???¢m going to write this and that.??¢â???¬  And then we??¢â???¬â???¢d say, ??¢â???¬?????Well we fund you, and the taxpayers don??¢â???¬â???¢t like what you write.??¢â???¬  You and I don??¢â???¬â???¢t have an argument, because we don??¢â???¬â???¢t fund you. So I have always felt the same way. That way we don??¢â???¬â???¢t have these arguments. Society will argue about some painting that??¢â???¬â???¢s put up, and whether it??¢â???¬â???¢s tasteful or not. But when you fund it through the government, taxpayers pay, and it puts a lot of pressure for the government to come in and start to say what??¢â???¬â???¢s appropriate or not.

Will you vote against an increase in funding for the NEA, if you are able?

NEY: Yes. I??¢â???¬â???¢ve supported the humanities council and things, and I support the arts. So putting aside the whole separate argument–and that??¢â???¬â???¢s not going to happen politically, it??¢â???¬â???¢s not going to be de-funded–but putting that aside, right now, we have tight budgets. And so a lot of things are going to go par to where they were, I think.


The 1996 Republican platform called for de-funding the National Endowment for the Arts. Should this Congress do that–


–or increase its funding by 15% like the President wants to do?

TANCREDO: You must have seen my response to the President??¢â???¬â???¢s proposal. I said at the time that I??¢â???¬â???¢ve never seen a better indicator of the fact that the Republican Party has apparently lost any claim to a mantle of fiscal responsibility. I go up every single year and try to de-fund NEA. I try to strike all of their money, I try to move it around, I try to do everything. And here he is, wanting to actually– You know, there might be a plan afoot in the White House to just see how much the Republican base will take before they simply sit home. Sometimes you think that??¢â???¬â???¢s–

Do you think they really want to find that out?

TANCREDO: Well, I??¢â???¬â???¢m being facetious. But you wonder if they??¢â???¬â???¢re just testing to see, ??¢â???¬?????I wonder how much they??¢â???¬â???¢ll take.??¢â???¬  I wonder if it will start with No Child Left Behind, or maybe the tariffs on steel, or maybe the Medicare/Prescription Drug Benefit, or the Alien Guest Worker/Amnesty program for everyone here illegally, or increasing money for the NEA? You know, I wonder what is next? If they??¢â???¬â???¢re trying to see how far the base can be pushed before they just simply stay home, I think they??¢â???¬â???¢re right there on the edge.