Thursday, February 12, 2009

Could it be? Have they come to their senses?

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that early this afternoon, a glimmer of hope came down from Capitol Hill, with "multiple Congressional sources" telling Americans for the Arts that the stimulus bill would include $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.

But, let us not count our chickens quite yet. Nothing will be certain until the final bill becomes public. It then will be up for a vote in each house of Congress.

Just to review: the House's version of the stimulus bill included the $50 million for nonprofit arts groups, with the NEA to send $20 million of it to state arts agencies, and distribute the rest via its own grant-making pipeline. The Senate's proposal contained absolutely nothing, incorporating an amendment from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK. The amendment stated “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act [the stimulus bill] may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.”

As reported by Scott Lilly in his piece for the Center for American Progress:
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) was typical of the opponents to the stimulus legislation who seized on the arts to discredit the overall package; he told the House chamber, “It included wasteful government spending that has nothing to do with creating jobs. As I asked on this floor last week, what does $50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts have to do with creating jobs in Indiana?” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) was even more emphatic, saying, “We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA and pretending that’s going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a road project is disingenuous.”
According to an Americans for the Arts spokeswoman, word is that the Coburn amendment has now been "watered down" to make arts funding possible.

I wonder if Sen. Coburn was starting to feel guilty about potentially putting his own daughter, Sarah, out of work. Hmm?

(Photo: Placido Domingo stars as Bajazet, with soprano Sara Coburn as Asteria, in the Washington National opera's production of Tamerlano - by: Karin Cooper)

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