Bush Seeks Funding Increase For NEA

The National Endowment for the Arts was once a favorite target of Republicans. Now, President Bush is proposing the agency get its largest funding increase in two decades.

First lady Laura Bush made the announcement, saying her husband will ask Congress for an 18 million-dollar increase for the NEA. The first lady says, quoting here, "American arts are a reflection of our history and the creativity of the human spirit."

Most of the additional money would be used for an initiative called "American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius." It will sponsor tours and exhibitions in all 50 states that showcase American masterpieces from dance to the fine arts to literature.

The NEA received 122 million dollars last year -- well below the 175 million it received in 1992 under President Clinton. One Republican House member says the NEA has made a special effort to reach out to its critics but other conservatives say they'll fight any increase for the agency.

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