The NEA's Last Stand

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WASHINGTON: National Endowment for the Arts advocates saw their agency take a step closer to extinction today after the House slashed the $10 million remaining in the NEA budget and voted overwhelmingly to block the states from inheriting the agency's grant-making powers. Left without a penny for even a kindergarten fingerpainting show, defenders of the grant-making agency are looking to the Senate and President Clinton to help keep their agency alive. Republican senator Slade Gorton, chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, has indicated a willingness to fund the agency with at least $99.5 million next year. Republican Senator Jim Jeffords, head of the Senate panel which oversees the NEA, chimed in yesterday with a promise to reauthorize the agency, a move which would make it officially eligible to receive federal money. In addition to strong bipartisan support in the Senate, the House crusade to eliminate the NEA also faces the prospect of a Presidential veto, a move the White House says is certain if NEA funds are withheld from the spending legislation.