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.

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