A CONGRESSIONAL committee yesterday hurled a monkey wrench at the president's new star-studded Committee on the Arts and Humanities -- its members including singer Frank Sinatra, Reagan "kitchen cabinet" member Armand Deutsch and former Time Inc. chairman Andrew Heiskell -- by recommending its current source of funding be eliminated.
The presidential committee, whose expressed goal is to look into ways to increase and encourage private support of the arts, was to receive $250,000 in taxpayer money from the National Endowment for the Arts, $15,439 of which it has already received and spent for office space and the salaries of two staff members, according to an NEA spokesman.
But yesterday the House Appropriations Committee approved the funding for the arts endowment with the prohibition that "no funds are provided for the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities."
"It means the funding will have to come from other sources . . . I think their funding should come from the White House and voluntary sources," said Rep. Sidney Yates (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the interior, which supervises funding for the arts endowment. He said he inserted the language in a committee report accompanying the bill "to show the arts endowment funding is not intended for that committee."
Yates said that if the arts endowment were planning to fund the presidential committee, "it's without my knowledge. It isn't supposed to be." He said the arts endowment was not authorized to give the presidential committee the $15,439 already spent, but added he didn't know if anything could be done about it.
"This comes as a surprise to me," said Joseph Krakora, a special adviser to Diane Brokaw, the executive director of the 5-month-old presidential committee. "It sounds like obviously something that's got to be resolved."
Brokaw could not be reached for comment. Krakora was reached in the new committee's office in the White House. He said the committee also has a New York office.
Public relations officers at the arts endowment, the federal agency that supports the visual and performing arts largely by means of federal grants, also were surprised yesterday to learn of Yates' action.
Endowment chairman Frank S.M. Hodsoll could not be reached for comment but his director of media news and special projects, Florence S. Lowe, said that if the endowment is not allowed to support the presidential committee, funding might come from other sources.
"There are some pretty wealthy people on that [presidential] committee," Lowe said.
Yates' prohibition flew in the face of Reagan's June 15 executive order creating his new arts and humanities committee. "Any administrative support or other expenses of the committee shall be paid, to the extent permitted by law, from funds available to the National Endowment for the Arts," said Reagan's order.
Yates said the bill containing his language will go to the House floor today, and he predicted it will pass. After that, the measure would still have to get through a Republican Senate and be signed by the president before the arts endowment would actually be prohibited from supporting the new presidential committee.
The new committee held its inaugural meeting Sept. 21 with a private White House luncheon hosted by Nancy Reagan, who told the group, "I believe that art binds us together and I need not say how necessary that is today." Its 29 members are culled from the fields of business, the arts, education and government.
Other members include Leonard L. Silverstein, president of the National Symphony Orchestra; Barnabas McHenry, general counsel of the Reader's Digest Association; Mobil Oil Corp. chairman Rawleigh Warner Jr., and former arts endowment chairman Nancy Hanks.