House Leaders Drop Curtain on Kennedy Center Bill

House leaders have delayed a vote on authorizing about $191 million in funding for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington after Republicans complained the venue didn’t need federal largesse.

The bill would have allowed federal funds over five years for the maintenance, repair and security of the massive white boxlike complex abutting the Potomac River.

The vote to consider the bill under an expedited procedure had originally been scheduled for Tuesday. A new schedule released today by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office didn’t include the bill for a floor vote.

The measure earlier had been scheduled for consideration under suspension of the rules, which limits debate and requires two-thirds majority for passage. A House Republican leadership aide, who asked not to be named in confirming the leaders’ decision, said it isn’t unusual for the suspension calendar to change on any given week.

The Kennedy Center, one of the nation’s premier arts centers, features top musical and dramatic performances. “The Book of Mormon,” winner of nine Tony awards in 2011, is now playing. It also each year honors the lifetime achievements of arts greats at a ceremony attended by the president. This year’s honorees include The Eagles, Carole King, George Lucas, Rita Moreno, Seiji Ozawa and Cicely Tyson.

Lawmaker Complaints

The move to scrap the planned vote comes after lawmakers belonging to limited-government groups, including the House Republican Study Committee and the House Freedom Caucus, complained about funds going to the Kennedy Center. Outside of Congress, the conservative group, Heritage Action, also had been expressing to members its opposition to the Kennedy Center’s funding.

The Republican Study Committee, in its own version of a 2016 budget released in March, recommended elimination of Kennedy Center funding.

“It is inappropriate for the federal government to subsidize a performing arts center in one of the wealthiest areas in the country,” stated the RSC.

“For example, tickets to recent shows of ‘The Nutcracker’ ranged in price from $56 to $165,” the group said. “The Kennedy Center’s website currently lists 15 corporations as Executive Benefactors who provide annual commitment of $250,000 or greater.”

The RSC’s budget said “eliminating subsidies” to the Kennedy Center beginning in fiscal year 2016 would save taxpayers $32.8 million per year.

The Kennedy Center funding reauthorization bill, H.R. 1473, is sponsored by Representative Lou Barletta, a Pennsylvania Republican. His office had no immediate comment on Monday. The measure, which was cosponsored by Indiana Democrat Andre Carson, was approved by voice vote in April by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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