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Key Republican Senator Supports NEA Funding Despite Trump’s Proposal to Cut It

Variety logo Variety 3/17/2017 Ted Johnson
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Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs a Senate subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, said that she supports the agency despite President Trump’s proposal to eliminate it.

Trump’s budget blueprint, released on Thursday, called for massive cuts to a number of government agencies, including the elimination of the NEA and its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities. They each received appropriations of about $147 million this year.

In a statement released on Friday, Murkowski said that “the budget blueprint released Thursday is simply a proposal. These agencies and their contributions will be evaluated through the appropriations process with all other discretionary programs.  I believe we can find a way to commit to fiscal responsibility while continuing to support the important benefits that NEA and NEH provide.”

Murkowski chairs a Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the agencies. She has supported funding for the agencies in the past.

Two other Republicans, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), signed a letter to Trump last month urging continued funding for the agencies.

A letter backing NEA and NEH funding also is circulating in the House. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), who co-chairs the Congressional Arts Caucus, issued a statement on Thursday in which he acknowledged the need to reduce the deficit but also said, “Cutting programs through the Department of Justice and revenue builders like the NEA are penny wise but pound foolish.”

According to Americans for the Arts, the chief advocacy organization for federal arts funding, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) have indicated their concern over the NEA’s termination.

Murkowski’s statement was first reported by The New York Times.

Dana Gioia, a USC professor who chaired the NEA under President George W. Bush, said that he was surprised that Trump made the recommendation to eliminate the agency, given its history of surviving the budget ax, often when senators moved to save the agency.

“Why pick a battle you can’t win?” he said in an interview on Thursday with Variety’s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel.

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