This morning, President Trump released a budget blueprint that calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute for Museums and Library Services, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. It also calls for the reduction or elimination of the Department of Education's International Education programs.
This is an assault on a wide range of humanities programs that support research, teaching, museums, libraries, documentary film, and the preservation of cultural heritage. These programs are essential to a healthy civic culture and bridging divides in our communities.
Our attention now turns to Congress, which has the ability to fund these programs despite the administration’s proposals.
A Budget Proposal is Just a Proposal
The administration’s budget blueprint is fundamentally advisory. The House and Senate will now begin their own budget and appropriations processes, starting with their own budget resolutions. Like the administration’s budget blueprint, these Congressional budget resolutions are also largely non-binding.
The Appropriations committees will ultimately draft legislation that sets funding levels for the NEH, NEA, IMLS, International Education, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and other humanities programs that are not specifically addressed in the administration’s blueprint. In the last several years, we have seen strong, bipartisan support on the Appropriations committee for the NEH, in particular, including a $1.9 million increase in FY 2016 and increases proposed by both chambers for FY 2017.
It is critically important that this year’s draft appropriations bills in the House and Senate subcommittees provide adequate funding for humanities programs. Strong draft appropriations levels will put our priorities in a good position to weather this storm. We would then need to be prepared to block amendments that would cut or eliminate funding both in committee and on the floor. If, in contrast, one or both subcommittees do not provide funding for these priorities, we will need to be prepared to restore funding by amendment in subcommittee, committee, or on the floor.
Mobilizing Support Now and in Coming Months
Earlier this week, a record number of advocates met with their Members of Congress and made the case for robust funding for humanities programs. Last week, the state humanities councils did the same. The feedback from these meetings showed continuing bipartisan support, despite—or perhaps because of—reports that the administration would call for elimination of the NEH. That said, Members of Congress must continue to hear from their constituents to bolster their resolve to fight for the NEH and other humanities funding priorities.
You can take action in support of all of these programs here. Please also spread the word via email and on social media.
By later this afternoon, we will have updated advocacy resources under the resources tab on our website—including issue briefs, an NEH fact sheet, and images for use on social media—that you might consider using in your social media advocacy.
This year’s appropriations process is likely to last for a number of months. While we are concerned about the Administration’s proposal, we remain optimistic that the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the International Education programs of the Department of Education, the Institute for Museums and Library Services, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars can be preserved through the hard work of advocates across the country.