In back-to-back votes on October 29, both the House and the Senate passed the final version of the bill appropriating $167.5 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in fiscal year 2010. The funding legislation agreed to by a House-Senate conference committee earlier in the week set the arts endowment budget for the year with an increase of $12.5 million above the 2009 level of $155 million. President Obama had proposed raising the arts funding to $161.3 million, the same amount set in the Senate version of the legislation. The House had allocated $170 million for the arts endowment in the coming year.
The appropriations measure passed by the House and Senate also includes authority, requested by the president in the administration’s 2010 budget, for the appointment of four additional members to the National Council on the Arts, returning the endowment’s advisory body closer to the size it enjoyed before Congress decreased the board’s membership several years ago.
The appropriations bill also includes a general provision prohibiting any agency, including the NEA, from any activity, publication or distribution of literature that “in any way [emphasis added] tends to promote public support or opposition to any legislative proposal on which Congressional action is not complete other than to communicate to Members of Congress. . . .” The bill urges the NEA to take immediate steps to ensure that all employees are aware of these provisions when conducting any activities funded by this appropriation. The legislative admonition is in apparent response to concerns raised in recent months by members of Congress and others over efforts by the Obama administration to engage in dialogue with various constituencies on issues of interest to the White House.
The Interior appropriations bill accompanies a continuing resolution to carry seven unfinished money bills through December 18 while Congress continues work to finish those remaining funding measures. The president is expected to sign the bill before the October 31 deadline when the current continuing resolution expires.