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Spending deal protects arts money, rejects Trump plan

 (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Congressional leaders rejected the Trump administration's proposal to eliminate money for federal arts programs, providing a small increase as part of a bipartisan spending deal.

The spending bill that Congress is expected to vote on this week includes $150 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and an identical sum for the Humanities endowment. In both cases, that's a $2-million increase over last fiscal year.

There's also no cut in money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

President Trump, in his budget, had proposed eliminating all federal money for the NEA and the NEH, generating an intense lobbying campaign by arts supporters.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney had advocated the cuts, saying that it was unfair to take money from working families to support programs such as the endowments and public television.

But it was clear from the outset that Trump's plan would face trouble in Congress. Most NEA funds go to support community arts groups in all 50 states, with rural, Republican-leaning states topping the lists of spending per person. As a result, arts programs have a strong constituency in Congress, especially on the appropriations committees that dole out spending.

Mulvaney and his allies in the most conservative wing of the GOP have tried to cut money for arts programs in the past with no success.

The deal only lasts through the end of September, and the fight could be renewed for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, but the basic congressional dynamics aren't likely to change.

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