Yes We Can!

Not to dominate this blog with talk of the federal stimulus package, but many have asked whether the Coburn Amendment language made it into the final version of the bill, so I wanted to share with you this exciting news that allows us all to claim victory over evil. Here is a note that just came across the wires from our friends at Americans for the Arts.

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved their final version of the Economic Recovery bill by a vote of 246-183. We can now confirm that the package DOES include $50 million in direct support for arts jobs through National Endowment for the Arts grants. We are also happy to report that the exclusionary Coburn Amendment language banning certain arts groups from receiving any other economic recovery funds has also been successfully removed. Tonight the Senate is scheduled to have their final vote, and President Obama plans to sign the bill on Monday - President's Day.

A United Voice. This is an important victory for all of you as arts advocates. More than 85,000 letters were sent to Congress, thousands of calls were made, and hundreds of op-eds, letters to the editor, news stories, and blog entries were generated in print and online media about the role of the arts in the economy. Artists, business leaders, mayors, governors, and a full range of national, state, and local arts groups all united together on this advocacy issue. This outcome marks a stunning turnaround of events and exemplifies the power of grassroots arts advocacy.

We would like to also thank some key leaders on Capitol Hill who really carried our voices into the conference negotiation room and throughout the halls of Congress: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI), House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA), and Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Louise Slaughter (D-NY). We also want to publicly thank President Obama for taking the early lead in recognizing the role of the arts in economic development. These leaders were able to convincingly make the case that protecting jobs in the creative sector is integral to the U.S. economy.

What's Next. As we wrap up our work on the Economic Recovery legislation, we wanted to share with you other upcoming legislative action that we are tracking:
  • Finalization by early March of the FY 2009 appropriations, which has been operating under a continuing resolution for the last five months.

  • Release of President Obama's first federal budget for FY 2010 is expected in late March/early April.

  • Hearings in the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee on the FY 2010 budget.

  • Hearings in the House Education & Labor Committee on arts in the workforce and arts education.

Seriously. Anyone who sent a letter to their Senator on this issue, or submitted a letter to the media, should feel a sense of accomplishment here.


MightyToyCannon said...

Good news on the funding front! Thanks for letting us know. Now I'll have to spend time over the weekend editing my draft of a new screed about arts funding. I'm sure you can hardly wait.

cynseattle said...

and it's a good time to remember to send thank you letters/emails to the folks who did the right thing with their votes...meaning those that agreed with us ;-)

culturejock said...

That's an important point about thank you notes, Cyn. Thank you for the reminder! I just sent handwritten (!) notes to Rep. Blumenauer, and Sens. Wyden and Merkley. And now you've got me thinking about thank you notes in general. At work I would never let a couple of days go by without sending a handwritten thank you note for any cash gift to the arts, but in my private life I fear that I have gotten lazy about thanking people for a dinner party, event tickets, or any other friendly favor. Sure I tell them "thanks" in person, and probably by email too, but I should affix postage stamps to more of my expressions of appreciation. Because thank you notes are very nice to receive, indeed... as my Congressmen's secretaries are about to find out.