Senate Appropriations Committee Strongly Supports Humanities Funding

Yesterday afternoon, the Senate Appropriations Committee released two bills that propose boosts or level funding for a variety of humanities programs. The 2018 bill funding the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies included appropriations for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, both of which were funded at $149.8. This is the same funding level the NEH and the NEA received for FY 2017, and it represents a forceful rejection of the administration’s call to eliminate the agencies.

In introducing the Interior bill, Ranking Member Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) thanked Chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for working “with me and other members on both sides of the aisle to reject the president’s disastrous proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities and maintain level funding for each of the endowments.”   

The House passed an appropriations bill in September that also rejected the administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for the NEH and provided $145 million for FY 2018. Once the Senate passes the appropriations bill, the House and Senate will have to reconcile the two numbers. Given the support we have heard from House appropriators in recent months, we are hopeful that the higher number will win out.

The Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill held more good news for the humanities. It included level funding for the Woodrow Wilson Center ($10.5 million) whereas the House appropriations bill approved $10 million.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also released the Financial Services and General Government bill, which included $6 million for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the same amount as FY 2017 and an improvement from the House bill’s $4 million. It is heartening to see the Senate committee not only reject the administration’s call to eliminate funding for the NHPRC but also the House’s more modest proposal.

Click here for a full funding chart.

The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution, which funds the government at FY 2017 levels and is set to expire on December 8th. In the coming weeks, we will see whether Congress can reach an agreement on overall spending levels or whether we will see another continuing resolution. We will keep you updated on the progress and let you know when your voice can make a difference.

Thank you for your tremendous advocacy this year!

 


Update: House Passes Tax Bill with Clause that Taxes Waived Tuition

This afternoon, the House passed a tax bill with a vote of 227-205, with 13 Republicans breaking ranks to vote against it. The bill that passed included a clause that would make tuition waivers for graduate students subject to income tax. This would significantly increase the tax liability of hundreds of thousands of graduate students.

The Senate tax bill is still under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee, and it does not include a provision that would make tuition waivers taxable.

At this point, we must ensure that the Senate bill does not change in this regard. Passage of the Senate bill appears somewhat less likely since a key Senator indicated that he would vote against the bill and the Finance Committee added the removal of the ACA individual mandate to the draft. Nonetheless, if the Senate does pass its own tax bill in the coming weeks, we must work to keep the House’s tuition waiver tax provision out of the final bill. We will continue to keep you updated and let you know when urgent action is needed.

 


UPDATE: Senate Tax Bill Does Not Tax Waived Tuition

Last week, the Senate released its tax bill, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Unlike the House bill, the Senate’s version would allow the current exemption for graduate students’ waived tuition to continue. While this is welcome news, as the House and Senate strive to pass final bills before the December recess, the House provision could still prevail when they reconcile their bills.

The House bill passed out of the Ways and Means Committee last Thursday and is now under consideration in the House Rules Committee. It is expected to reach the House floor for consideration later today, with a floor vote projected for Thursday. While the bill has been amended as it has moved through committee, the provision to tax graduate student tuition waivers remains.  

The Senate bill is still under consideration in the Senate Finance Committee. A new list of amendments—including one that would repeal the Obamacare individual mandate—were introduced on Tuesday afternoon. Democrats on the Finance Committee are now calling for extended time to review the amendments and Republicans are looking to move the bill forward quickly. The committee is taking up the bill again this morning. The Affordable Care Act individual mandate repeal will likely be the focus of debate, with tax code-specific topics taking a backseat.

It is still crucial to take action to oppose the House effort to raise the tax burden on graduate students—who already struggle to make ends meet.

Click here to take action to oppose the provision in the House bill that would make graduate school unaffordable to many by significantly raising students’ tax liabilities.

 

 

 


Tax Cuts Paid for by Taxing Graduate Student Tuition Waivers

On Thursday, the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee released the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” Among many provisions that would affect higher education, the current draft of the bill would make tuition waivers for graduate students subject to income tax, increasing the tax liability of hundreds of thousands of graduate students.

Specifically, the bill amends Section 414(t)(2) of the tax code by striking section 117(d), which directs that “gross income shall not include any qualified tuition reduction.” In 117(d)(5), the current tax code specifically defines tuition waivers for graduate students engaged in teaching and research as “qualified tuition reductions,” and therefore not taxable.

This additional tax burden would cut into the modest stipends with which many graduate students already struggle to make ends meet.

The Ways and Means Committee is marking up the bill this week, with both Democratic and Republican committee members offering amendments. A few amendments have already been made. With Congress aiming to pass this bill by Thanksgiving, it is urgent to speak out now against this provision.

Click here to send urge Congress to oppose this provision.


Meet Acting NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with the new Acting Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Jon Parrish Peede. Our conversation was the latest installment of NHA’s Between Two Bookshelves conference call series, which offers a brief, deep dive into Washington-based humanities policy for NHA members.

We covered a wide-range of topics during the call, including Peede’s formative experiences with two of his mentors: former NEH Chair Bill Ferris, under whom he studied at the University of Mississippi’s program in Southern Studies and former NEA Chair Dana Gioia, whom he met as a young editor at Mercer University Press. Ferris remained an important force in Peede’s career, pausing from his outreach to Members of Congress after his appointment as NEH Chair by President Clinton to help Peede get the job at Mercer. Gioia later invited Peede to join him as senior advisor and speech writer at the NEA. After serving under Chairman Gioia for more than six years, Peede was asked to remain at the agency by the Obama Administration’s transition team. He continued to serve the agency for two more years.

During the call, I asked Peede about formative humanities experiences and his vision for the role of the NEH and the humanities in our national life. Among many interesting answers, Peede talked about interviewing John Hope Franklin and Will Campbell. Peede also envisions the NEH as “a catalytic funder” that can help generate “institutional buy-in” and help to launch “new areas of the humanities.” He sees the humanities playing a central role in our national life: “We often live in a bifurcated society with those who are engaged in their communities and the world and those who are not, and humanities are a path toward that engagement.”

Click here to give a listen to the full interview.


Current State of Play for Humanities Funding

The FY 2018 appropriations process continues to wind on, with the House much farther ahead than the Senate in passing appropriations bills. Humanities advocates have taken action at several critical moments, urging Congress to allocate robust funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities and other humanities programs.  

House Passes Omnibus Spending Bill

This advocacy paid off on September 14, when the House passed an omnibus spending bill (H.R. 3354), which encompassed all 12 appropriations bills and almost completely rejected the President’s proposed defunding of humanities programs. Under Division A - the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, the National Endowment for the Humanities received $145 million in funding. While this is a nearly $5 million decrease from FY 2017 levels, it is fairly proportional to the reductions applied to other agencies to conform to the tight FY 2018 budget caps.  

Division F of the bill – the Department of Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act - provided $231 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and $65 million for Title VI International Education Programs, which represented level funding for both. In the most significant loss for humanities funding - and despite a robust push from advocates - the bill did not include any funding for the Fulbright-Hays program.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission, meanwhile, was funded at the $4 million level under Division D – the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (representing a $2 million decrease), and the Library of Congress received $697 million under Division J, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act (representing a $6.9 million increase from FY 2017).

We were pleased to see these reasonable funding levels in the House bill overall, but were still very disappointed to see the Fulbright-Hays program left unfunded. Representative David Price did offer an amendment to restore the program’s $7 million in funding, but the Rules Committee did not allow the amendment to be considered on the floor. Fortunately, the Senate appropriations bill included level funding for Fulbright-Hays, and we will push to see this amount win out when the appropriations bills reach conference.

Senate Funding Bills

In general, the Senate funding bills have not made it to the Senate floor. The Legislative Branch Appropriations Act of 2018 (S. 1648) passed out of committee, funding the Library of Congress at $688 million. The Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (S. 1771) passed out of committee with a modest increase for IMLS and level funding for Title VI as well as Fulbright-Hays. The Senate is expected to begin drafting the remaining appropriations bills, including the Interior and Environment bill under which the NEH is funded, in late September or early October. We will keep you updated on the Senate’s progress.

Click here for a full funding chart.

Next Steps

Regardless of what appropriations bills are passed, however, no new funding levels will take effect unless a budget resolution, which determines overall discretionary spending levels, is agreed to. Budget resolutions are generally passed in the spring, but the House Budget Committee did not refer a budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71) for consideration on the House floor until July. This resolution, which has not yet been voted on, significantly raised spending caps through 2027, which will likely help to alleviate some of the pressure on House and Senate appropriators to cut spending to conform with the current low budget caps. If these new spending caps are passed, we might even see increases for humanities funding in FY 2018.

Nonetheless, we are not likely to see fast movement on either the budget resolution or appropriations bills, as Congress passed a continuing resolution (H.R. 601) on September 7, which extended current funding levels through December 8, 2017. This allowed Congress more time to pass a budget resolution and complete its appropriations work. If Congress does not accomplish these goals by December, we are likely to see another continuing resolution, funding the government at relatively similar levels to those of FY 2017.


Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Hill for the Humanities!

What a week! We spent Tuesday and Wednesday on the Hill with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who came to town to receive the US Capitol Historical Society’s Freedom Award and stayed to advocate for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Check out our Storify of all the events, meetings, tweets, and videos!

Tuesday evening started off with the US Capitol Historical Society’s award ceremony, which featured Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Representative John Lewis, and Donald Carlson, Chair of the USCHS Board of Trustees, recognizing Lin-Manuel for his tremendous work creating Hamilton: An American Musical and the Hamilton Education Program, which integrates Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Era into high school studies.

In his acceptance speech, Lin-Manuel noted “without humanities and arts programs, I wouldn’t be standing here today” and underscored the importance of ensuring that all youth, rural and urban, have similar access. “The fact is,” he noted, “that in places like Appalachia and California’s Central Valley and Native American reservations and the Mississippi Delta and vast swaths of the Great Plains, the private resources simply do not exist to provide kids with the kinds of programs that I was just lucky enough to grow up with. This is why the [NEH] and the [NEA] are so vital to our democracy. Without these resources, we are essentially telling these kids without access to the arts, ‘Your world is small. Don’t dream too big.’”

We then moved on to the “Congress and the Humanities Showcase,” which the National Humanities Alliance produced in conjunction with the USCHS. The Humanities Showcase recognized Congress for its ongoing support for the NEH and honored the creative and innovative work the NEH supports in serving K-12 students, veterans, tribal nations, and rural communities. A bi-partisan group of Congress members introduced projects from around the country and underscored the importance of the NEH. See more here.

Lin-Manuel_Miranda_and_Senator_Elizabeth_Warren.jpg

Finally, Lin-Manuel dedicated the next day to traveling around the Capitol with us (while singing and snapping selfies) to make the case for the importance of broad access to the arts and humanities. He joined a bi-partisan group from the New York delegation and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which funds the NEH and NEA. He also thanked the chairs of the Senate Cultural Caucus, Congressional Humanities Caucus, and Congressional Arts Caucus. Check out pictures of these meetings, the one-on-ones, and hallway run-ins here.

We are extremely grateful to Lin-Manuel Miranda for joining us on the Hill, amplifying the messages our advocates have been sending for the past several months.

As always, follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date and visit our Take Action page for more ways to advocate.


Cuts to Fulbright-Hays Advance Out of Full Committee

Last Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee considered the funding bill put forward by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H). As noted in a previous post, this bill provided level funding for both IMLS (at $231 million) and the Department of Education’s Title VI international education programs (at $65 million), but eliminated the Fulbright-Hays program entirely.

In the days leading up to the full committee's consideration of the bill, the humanities community voiced its support for Fulbright-Hays and Title VI, sending over 10,000 letters to Congress.

During last Wednesday’s full committee proceedings, Representative David Price (D-NC) offered an amendment to restore funding for Fulbright-Hays. Like all other amendments offered that day, this one was voted down. Nonetheless, we were pleased to see that Representative Cole (R-OK), chairman of the Labor-H subcommittee, took the opportunity to recognize the importance of Fulbright-Hays, noting that he was a Fulbright scholar. He also expressed his willingness to work with Representative Price to restore its funding as the budget process moves forward.

In the end, the full committee approved the bill—with level funding for IMLS and Title VI and zero funding for Fulbright-Hays—and voted to refer it out of committee. The next step for this bill will be the House floor, where we would hope to see an amendment restoring funding, though it remains unclear when it will reach the floor. We are still awaiting Senate numbers for Title VI and Fulbright-Hays, along with all of our other priorities. Given that we are still in the early stages of the appropriations process, your voice can still have an impact. Please take action to let your Members of Congress know that you support funding for both Title VI and Fulbright-Hays.


NEH Funding Bill Clears Full Appropriations Committee

Late last night, the House Appropriations Committee endorsed the bill that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies had approved on July 12. As we noted in an earlier post, this bill would provide $145 million each for the NEH and the NEA in FY 2018. While this is a $4.8 million reduction from the FY 2017 levels, we are pleased to see that the full Appropriations Committee followed the subcommittee’s lead in rejecting the president’s proposal to defund the Endowments.

The appropriations process is still in its early stages, and the NEH still faces hurdles in the House and the Senate. For more information on the bill and next steps in the appropriations process, see our post on the subcommittee’s draft. Visit our Take Action page to learn about the multiple ways you can support the NEH.


Wins and Losses in the Labor-H Draft Bill

Late last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-H) passed a funding bill, sending it on to the full committee for consideration. The full committee is scheduled to take up the bill on Wednesday, July 19th at 10am.

As it stands now, the draft bill includes some very positive news for humanities funding: IMLS would receive the same amount of funding as in FY 2017 ($231 million) despite the Trump Administration’s efforts to defund the agency. In addition, the bill provides level funding ($65 million) for the Department of Education’s Title VI international education programs. This is a win for the humanities community, given that the Trump Administration also proposed the elimination of these programs.

Unfortunately, following the president’s request, the bill proposes the elimination of the Fulbright-Hays program.

Title VI and Fulbright-Hays are Department of Education programs that work in tandem to support foreign language learning and international education. Fulbright-Hays ensures that students and teachers can acquire language and area expertise with on-the-ground experience overseas through two programs: Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, which provides grants to colleges and universities to fund individual doctoral students to conduct research abroad, particularly in world regions not normally included in U.S. curricula; and Group Projects Abroad, which supports seminars, curriculum development, group research, and advanced intensive language programs for American teachers, students, and faculty abroad.

The House subcommittee’s failure to fund Fulbright-Hays is especially concerning because in recent years, we have counted on House support to offset the Senate’s efforts to defund these programs. During last year’s appropriation’s process, the Senate proposed just $2.2 million in funding for Fulbright-Hays, just enough for continuation grants and an effort to phase out the program. The House, meanwhile, proposed level funding at $7 million. In final negotiations for FY 2017, Congress ultimately agreed on the House’s number, ensuring the (temporary) continuation of Fulbright-Hays. 

Given the Senate’s recent history of proposed cuts and the new proposal in the House, it is crucial that Members of Congress hear from us now. It is not too late to encourage the House to change course and restore funding for Fulbright-Hays. The Senate, meanwhile, is just starting to roll out appropriations bills and there is time to influence their numbers.

Click here to take action!

Once you’ve taken action, please recruit more advocates! Check out our Title VI/Fulbright-Hays graphics and use them to spread the word on social media.