Things May Be Looking Up for the NEA — and Down for the Border Wall — in New Budget Proposal

Despite Trump’s attempt in a recent congressional budget plan to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and public broadcasting, the Los Angeles Times reports that a bipartisan spending bill — which aims to appease a polarized Congress and prevent a shutdown — actually spares all three, at least temporarily.

The Times explains that (regardless of former Republican battles against programs such as the NEA) it was “clear from the outset that Trump’s plan would face [bipartisan] trouble in Congress.” Since the NEA funds a great deal of arts programs in rural areas (the highest amounts it spends per person are in red states), these programs have an impact on congressional decisions made by the representatives of those populations.

You’ll recall that in Donald Trump’s budget blueprint, the president advocated the elimination of all government funding, period, for the two endowments in question. Now, in the $1 trillion, 1600-plus-page federal spending bill agreed upon by leaders in Congress, the NEA and the NEH would get a $2 million boost for the 2017 fiscal year (each receiving $150 million, as opposed to their current $148), while the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget would remain the same ($445 million). Meanwhile, as Politico reports, no new funding is allotted to the Border Wall; the bill also doesn’t threaten cities that declare sanctuary status, as Donald Trump would’ve wanted. The legislation is anticipated to go to vote this week.

Unfortunately, as Indiewire notes, it’s not like this bill is some magical solution to Trumpism: it still provides $1.5 billion in border security (though the Washington Post elaborates, saying “the new border-security money comes with strict limitations that the Trump administration use it only for technology investments and repairs to existing fencing and infrastructure”), and a potential $15 billion in counterterrorist spending. So yes — before anyone says that the NEA is too expensive to maintain, note that that’s 7,500 times what either the NEA or NEH are getting. Sean Spicer said in a press briefing earlier today that Trump “got a lot out of this bill,” according to Politico. That’s never a good sentence.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a relatively good gauge of what’s acceptable at least to the Generic Moderate Democrat, said, “This…is a good agreement for the American people and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table. The bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison-pill riders, and increases investments in programs that the middle-class relies on, like medical research, education and infrastructure.”

Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were apparently pleased with the fact that the new bill rejects Republican riders that would’ve decreased environmental funding and limited Wall Street regulations. Also, if this gets past, Planned Parenthood will at least get funding through September — the period for which this bill will keep the government open — at which time, presumably, we may return to yet another cycle of uncertainty and frighteningly extreme proposals.