A little-noticed provision in a bill expected to clear a House committee Wednesday would end the government’s bankrolling of official portraits of government officials — a tradition that has been a boon not just for the various committee chairs and Cabinet secretaries who love seeing themselves immortalized in oils, but also for the easel-toting, beret-wearing set.
Sure, it’s being billed as a way to save money — the cost for a nice oil rendering of a white-haired guy cradling his beloved gavel can run in the tens of thousands, and some reports say the Obama administration has spent some $400,000 on paintings of the Cabinet. But what about the jobs it creates?
Hey, artists have to eat, too.
The ban, which would even cover the President, is tucked away in an appropriations bill that is expected to clear the committee Wednesday afternoon or Thursday. It’s based on language drafted by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in his stand-alone bill, the “Eliminating Government-Funded Oil-Painting Act,” which has the charmingly apt acronym “The EGO Act.”
Cassidy has argued that the tradition of paintings is outdated in this age of high-quality photos — and big deficits. A Cassidy spokesman tells the Loop that his boss has gotten surprisingly little blowback from colleagues — in fact, they’re been universally supportive, he says.
The measure is still a ways from becoming law; it still needs to clear a full House vote, and there’s little indication that the Senate is as eager to nix such paintings.
But perhaps someday, VIPs might just have to make do with iPhone selfies in place of gilt-framed likenesses.