Following a heated and angry debate, the House voted 228 to
192 Thursday to defund NPR. The Republican-backed bill prevents any government
funding for NPR dues or national programming.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)
who has been trying for the past two Congresses to cut noncom funding. It will
now go to the Senate, where its chances are slim to none.
Republicans billed the move as a necessary cut in
discretionary spending, but brought up the issue of the recent sting operation
in which an NPR fund-raiser exited after being caught on tape disparaging the
Tea Party and conservatives and talking about NPR not needing government money.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said Republicans were simply
trying to do the responsible thing by getting NPR out of the taxpayers'
pockets. She pointed to the generally more affluent audience to suggest that
they could make up for the lack of government dollars.
"The only way to control our federal debt is to re-focus our federal spending," said Rep Joe Barton (R-Tex.), former chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. "The funding for NPR was a nicety not a necessity. This vote wasn't about ideology; it was about getting our fiscal house in order."
Democrats took to the floor in droves to decry the move,
calling it horrible and crippling. They said it was an attack on Big Bird, that
it could hurt the Amber alert system, named after a child who was abducted and
killed while riding her bike. They also dissed cable news. Rep. Ed Markey
(D-Mass.) contrasted the oasis of hard news and "real info" from NPR
with the "Edwardian Drama" which he said characterized cable's
coverage of events. You don't have to be Dick Tracy to figure out that
Republicans have wanted to kill NPR from the outset, he said.
Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) compared the candid
and thoughtful public radio to "often ill-informed and sensationalist
But the harshest criticism arguably came from Democrat
Lynn Woolsey, also of California.
"If they can't get Bin Laden, they might as well go after Prairie Home
At a speech to the Media Institute earlier in the day, House
Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) had said that the
reality was cuts needed to be made, and that CPB
might wind up being the victim of the latest budgetary bop in a game of fiscal
But Walden also said that what is happening to public
broadcasting was brought about in part by what was happening "with"
public broadcasting. He said ever tying was on the table. "When
things pop up and have issues associated with them that resonate across the
country side, somebody grabs a mallet and whacks a mole, and that's what
is happening right now." He also said the bill was an effort to get
the government out of the programming business.
He pointed out his state had stopped spending its taxpayer
dollars on public broadcasting several years ago. He said he occasionally
listened to public broadcasting himself, but that it has come to the point
where people are going to have to vote against things they like if the
deficit is to be cut.
He also had some advice for noncoms or any other group
getting federal funds going forward. "I would advise them to choose their
words carefully even though they don't know they are being
videotaped" because "everything is a target right now."
The bill has little chance of passing in the Senate, and is
opposed by the White House. "The Administration strongly opposes House
passage of H.R. 1076, which would unacceptably prohibit Federal funding of
National Public Radio (NPR) and the use of Federal funds by public radio
stations to acquire radio content," the White House said in a statement.
The president has proposed some targeted CPB
cuts, and said it was open to others, but the White House said Thursday that
"undercutting funding for these radio stations, notably ones in rural
areas where such outlets are already scarce, would result in communities losing
valuable programming, and some stations could be forced to shut down altogether.