Publication Date

March 1, 1996

Fourth Continuing Resolution Allows the NEH and Other Agencies to Continue Operating

With nearly one-third of the 1996 fiscal year completed, President Clinton signed legislation that will keep the full government operating through March 15. Under the fourth continuing resolution, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will continue to operate at $99.5 million (the lowest amount assigned to the endowment in budgets passed by the House and the Senate—despite the fact that both chambers approved a conference report assigning the NEH $110 million).

For those who have been following the fate of the cultural agencies, the decision to go with the House number ($99.5 million) rather than the conference number ($110 million) was a disappointment. The day after President Clinton delivered the State of the Union address, appropriations committee chair Bob Livingston (R-La.) announced that Interior budget agencies as well as Labor- HHS-Education and Veterans Affairs HUD would all be funded at the conference levels. At roughly the same time, the chairs of the House and Senate Interior appropriations subcommittees released a statement calling for the lower levels, apparently as a tactic for the upcoming negotiations aimed at reaching agreement on an Interior bill. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) sided with the subcommittee chairs, and the end result was that the NEH will continue to operate at $10.5 million below its conference approved level.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) also operates at $99.5 million, but that is because House and conference levels are the same for the NEA. While the NEH is likely to end up with the full appropriation, operating at the lower level will increasingly interfere with making timely awards at levels that the $110 million budget would permit. The bright side of the fourth continuing resolution is that there may be a resolution of the conflict over the fiscal 1996 Interior appropriation that would assure the NEH its conference level appropriation and remove it from the stop-and-start atmosphere of the continuing resolutions. (See NCC Advocacy Update on page 28 of this issue of Perspectives for additional details about the fourth continuing resolution.)

House GOP Members Call for Continued Funding for the NEH and the NEA

Shortly after the third continuing resolution sent furloughed federal workers back to their offices, the House GOP leadership began talking about selectively funding only the programs the GOP likes in the next continuing resolution. There were a number of problems with the approach, not the least being the lack of GOP consensus on the value of many programs, including the NEH. As a preemptive strategy, the (NHA) and a number of organizations with which it works began seeking ways to help the GOP leadership appreciate that the NEH and its sister agency, the NEA, have good support among the GOP members of the House.

The House threat to fund only favored programs has receded for the time being. Senate responses ranged from lack of enthusiasm to outright hostility, and Representatives Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.), and Peter Torkildsen (R.-Mass.) moved forward with a letter to Speaker Gingrich. The letter emphasized the importance of the endowments and indicated that the conference level of funding should be the base (see the paragraphs above about the fourth continuing resolution). It was signed by the following GOP legislators: Doug Bereuter (Neb.); Sherwood L. Boehlert (N.Y.); Michael N. Castle (Del.); Tom Davis (Va.); Michael P. Forbes (N.Y.); Jon Fox (Pa.); Benjamin A. Gilman (N.Y.); Jim Greenwood (Pa.); Steve Gunderson (Wis.); Steve Horn (Calif.); Amo Houghton (N.Y.); Nancy L. Johnson (Conn.); Sue Kelly (N.Y.); Jim Kolbe (Ariz.); Rick A. Lazio (N.Y.); Jim Leach (Iowa); Constance A. Morella (Md.); Jack Quinn (N.Y.); Marge Roukema (N.J.); Peter G. Torkildsen (Mass.); and James T. Walsh (N.Y.).

A number of NHA members contacted these and other GOP legislators urging them to sign. It is appropriate to thank legislators who responded positively to the requests.

President's Budget Request for Fiscal 1997

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been thwarted in meeting the deadlines for next year's budget proposals because fiscal 1996 appropriations remain so unsettled. Some observers are guessing that it may be late March or even April before the budget can be sent to Congress. Meanwhile, many actions taken to date in the 104th Congress are likely to squeeze the discretionary budgets (such as the NEH's) even harder.

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