In a move demonstrating the uphill battle President Donald Trump will face attempting to achieve his budgetary goals, 11 House Republicans have signed a letter expressing support for the National Endowment for the Arts.
The New York Times reported on Friday that the signatories included “one Republican who previously voted to defund public broadcasting,” though none of the lawmakers were named.
The letter was sent to Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) and Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) ― the Republican chairman and top-ranking Democrat, respectively, of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over appropriation of funds for the NEA and National Endowment for the Humanities.
Eliminating the NEA and NEH has long been a conservative pet project, but it’s also a tricky one to accomplish, even when the Republican Party controls both legislative bodies. The endowments may be favorite targets of small-government, budget-cutting hardliners, but they’ve nonetheless enjoyed support from a healthy number of Republican lawmakers over the years.
Several GOP lawmakers expressed their support for the endowments after Trump’s bold proposal that they be eliminated entirely. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) issued a statement in March that read, in part: “I believe we can find a way to commit to fiscal responsibility while continuing to support the important benefits that N.E.A. and N.E.H. provide.” Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) commented, “I support the present level of funding for these programs.”
Arts advocacy groups likely aren’t surprised ― in fact, they’ve been counting on some level of Republican support for the arts and humanities endowments to see them through this existential threat. In March, PEN America executive director Suzanne Nossel and Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, each cited a February letter sent by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to the president advocating for continued support of the endowments. The letter was signed by 23 other senators, including two Republicans, while others, like Murkowski and Amodei, issued separate statements endorsing the endowments.
“We are heartened by the level of bipartisan support that members of Congress have shown for the NEH in recent years and in recent weeks,” Kidd told HuffPost.
After the embarrassing withdrawal of the Trump-backed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act last month, which foundered due to a lack of Republican support, it’s clear that even with his party controlling both the House and the Senate, Trump may struggle to achieve much of his agenda.
Signs from G.O.P. legislators continue to suggest that shuttering the NEA and NEH will remain an unlikely victory.