Congressman Bryan Steil (R-WI) has introduced a bill to rescind $25 million in stimulus funding for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts — the home of the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera — after the organization furloughed nearly 100 orchestra members immediately after the stimulus bill was signed.
“Some in Washington felt it was important to spend $25 million of taxpayer dollars on the Kennedy Center when there are obviously bigger needs right now. This is frivolous spending in the midst of a national emergency. Coronavirus requires a serious and targeted response,” said Steil.
The new bill, which has been co-sponsored by 13 other legislators, would revoke the center’s bailout and give it “back to the American people,” says House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who is a co-sponsor.
“If an organization is receiving assistance from the federal government, we expect them to take care of their workers. As we take further Congressional action to fight the Coronavirus’ devastating impact on families and our economy, I call on Speaker Pelosi to finally put the American people, not special interests, first,” said Scalise.
As The Washington Free Beacon previously reported, The Kennedy Center informed orchestra musicians last week that they should “proceed as if their final paycheck will be April 3,” and that they will not be paid until the center re-opens again.
“It’s very disappointing they’re going to get that money and then drop us afterward,” a veteran musician told The Washington Free Beacon on the condition that his identity not be publicly disclosed. “The Kennedy Center blindsided us.”
In an interview with Fox News, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) slammed Speaker Nancy Pelosi for delaying the stimulus bill to include “pet projects,” citing funding for the Kennedy Center as an example.
“While everybody else was working together, Republican and Democrat, with President Trump, who was solely focused on fighting for jobs for American families,” argued Scalise, “Nancy Pelosi literally held the bill up for days to get her pet projects, including the money for the Kennedy Center.”
The Minority Whip also addressed a snarky comment Speaker Pelosi made about Trump, who she accused of fiddling while “people are dying.”
“Interesting she used the choice of words ‘fiddler’ because it was the fiddlers, the violin players, all the musicians at the Kennedy Center that got laid off right as the bill got signed,” said Scalise.
According to The Hill, Trump indicated last week that he was a “fan” of supporting the Kennedy Center with a provision in the stimulus bailout, since the organization had to stop holding performances amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
“I haven’t spent time there because I’m far too busy. I’d love to go there evenings, but I’m too busy doing things,” said Trump. “The Kennedy Center, they do a beautiful job, an incredible job.”
CNN reported that the stimulus provision never explicitly stated they Kennedy Center funding was exclusively designated for musicians, and that the text of the bill says part of the funding will go toward “deep cleaning, improving telework capabilities, and for maintenance.”
According to The Washington Post, the center has furloughed a total of 1,100 staffers. Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, told the news agency the organization is prioritizing long-term stability.