Earlier this week, the House passed a funding bill that included a $12.5 million increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which would bring its budget to $167.5 million! If enacted, this would mark a very significant increase after four years of $2 and $3 million increases.
Also in this week’s bill was an increase for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Smithsonian, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the National Parks Service’s historic preservation programs.
Last week also brought good news for humanities advocates, when the House passed a nearly $17 million increase for the Department of Education’s international education programs (Title VI and Fulbright-Hays). This would amount to a 24% increase for programs that have not received increases since FY 2014. The same bill included a $15 million increase for the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The Senate is expected to begin releasing appropriations bills next month. While we know there is bipartisan support for humanities programs there as well, we are less likely to see increases of the same magnitude in the Senate’s bills. The House, Senate, and White House are currently re-negotiating caps for FY 2020 spending that were put in place nearly a decade ago under the Budget Control Act of 2011. Without renegotiated caps, FY 2020’s overall spending limit would be significantly lower than FY 2019’s. The House appropriations bills assume increased caps, and while the Senate bills will also likely assume increased caps, their assumptions will probably be somewhat lower than the House’s. In the end, the House might need to adjust the numbers in its appropriations bills downward if a final agreement sets caps lower than it is hoping. And if the House, Senate, and the President cannot reach an agreement, we may be heading to another government shutdown or a continuing resolution that maintains funding at FY 2019 levels.
While much remains to be seen, the House increases are a testament to your advocacy over the past years in the face of the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate funding for these programs. We will let you know when your advocacy is needed again.