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House Agrees to Keep Funding for NEA

September 24, 1997| From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Officially backing off from its most recent attempt to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts, the House voted Tuesday to yield to the Senate's desire to fund the agency for at least another year.

While the move helps assure that the 32-year-old NEA will receive $100 million for 1998, it does not protect the endowment from restrictions Congress might still impose on how its money is used. That decision rests with a conference committee that will reconcile differences between House and Senate bills that provide the NEA funding.

The House voted in July--by a margin of one vote--to strip the endowment of funds and abolish it. The Senate last week overwhelmingly approved sustaining it with the $100-million annual budget.

A voice vote Tuesday instructed the House's conferees to go along with the Senate on funding.

The NEA has been a target of conservative critics who berate it as an elitist operation that has used taxpayer dollars to commission art that is obscene at worst and ridiculous at best. The agency's survival has become more of a cultural symbol than a financial one--its funding represents a tiny fraction of the overall federal budget.

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