The NEA has been without an appointed chairperson since November 2012. [Editor’s note: Half an hour after this post went live, Chu was voted in by the Senate.] Why is it taking so long to fill this position? In November 2012 Rocco Landesman stepped down as chair; it wasn’t until February of this year that President Obama announced his nominee for the empty seat. (Landesman himself was nominated just months after his own predecessor’s resignation.) The President chose Dr. Jane Chu, a classically trained musician versed in the world of high-dollar fundraising. She’s the type of candidate that both aisles can agree on, but four months later, she’s still working in Kansas City, awaiting confirmation.
“The real problem is the late nature of Obama’s request,” Nina Ozlu Tunceli, Executive Director of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund, told me over the phone yesterday, when I asked about the delay. This statement supports the overall perceived neglect of the NEA by the Obama administration. Two weeks ago, Tunceli’s organization began a nationwide effort to put pressure on the Senate into speedily approve Chu’s appointment. They want the Senate to vote on her nomination before the July 4th recess.
So far, the confirmation process has gone off without a hitch. On May 14, the Senate HELP (Health Education Labor & Pensions) Committee unanimously voted to advance Chu’s nomination to the full U.S. Senate. “The process of vetting her nomination and background happened very smoothly,” Tunceli said, “to the point that it was approved unanimously.” She’s received bipartisan support; the senate just needs to come to a vote. Until then, this slow process could appear symptomatic of the administration turning a blind eye to the NEA.
Dr. Jane Chu declined to comment until the confirmation hearings are over.