WASHINGTON — In what will likely wind up a ceremonial vote, the House today voted to specifically prohibit federal funding for National Public Radio by name. The bill also forbids public radio broadcasting stations from using federal dollars to acquire radio programs, a clause that could impact several programs produced by the St. Paul-based American Public Media, like “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Marketplace.”
The final vote was 228-192, almost entirely along party lines. Almost every Republican, including the four from Minnesota, voted to defund NPR, while every Democrat voted against the bill.
“Republicans fully understand that to bolster job growth today and avert national bankruptcy tomorrow, the federal government must stop spending money that it doesn’t have. This especially applies to government programs that are particularly defective or wasteful. That is why the House voted today to ban federal funding for National Public Radio,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the No. 4 Republican in the House. “Government has no business in the news business. Even NPR’s own former fundraising executive recently admitted that the organization ‘would be better off in the long run without federal funding.’“
Financially speaking, the bill wouldn’t actually save the government any money at all. NPR gets its federal funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the bill doesn’t actually cut that money, it just specifies that no federal dollars can go to NPR. Those dollars would presumably be freed up for other programming.
However, President Barack Obama has proposed cuts for CPB in his budget, and other legislation would go further in eliminating the CPB entirely.
“It is small, but the small ones add up. A bunch of drops in the bucket fill the pail,” said Chip Cravaack of cutting NPR’s federal dollars out of the entire budget. “We can’t keep on funding programs that are on [our children’s] dime, we have to stop. We have to look for savings anywhere we can.”
Democrats, however, derided even having the bill up in the first place. It was initiated by an emergency resolution and more time was spent today debating NPR than anything else.
California Democrat Anna Eshoo told the House that the nation has many threats before it, “but ‘Car Talk’ is hardly one of them and neither is Diane Rehm.”
“This is to placate the right wing that’s upset because they aren’t getting their riders on the [continuing resolution] bill,” said Rep. Collin Peterson shortly before the vote. Asked the chances this bill has to become law, Peterson made a circle with his pointer finger and thumb and said “Zero.”
Hours before the House vote, the White House issued a statement saying the Obama administration “strongly opposes” legislation that would “unacceptably prohibit” federal funding of NPR. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told National Journal that he’ll work against the bill in his chamber.
“Public radio and the top-notch journalists it employs are valuable resources to people of all ages across the country,” said Reid, “and I can’t understand why Republicans would want to take that away from them.”
It should be noted that at least a partial reason for the vote is that many Republicans think NPR is biased in favor of liberals in general and Democrats in particular, and have cited the recent firing of conservative commentator Juan Williams, as well as comments made by a senior NPR fundraiser (no longer with NPR) in a highly-edited covert sting video, to support that belief.
“NPR is widely recognized as a partisan media outlet that has long served as a platform for decidedly left-leaning programming and commentary,” Hensarling said. “This is a highly objectionable trait for an organization that is funded by American taxpayers. Thanks to today’s House vote, we are one step closer to ensuring that will no longer be the case.”
Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern, in a bit of pique, introduced a retaliatory amendment to ban federal funding for advertisements on Fox News.
“Over the past several years, it has become clear that the Fox News channel is wildly biased. They continue to employ a talk show host who called President Obama a racist. They continue to employ several prospective Republican Presidential candidates as “analysts,” giving them hours and hours of free air time. And their parent company has donated millions to GOP-linked groups,” McGovern charged. “If my friends on the other side of the aisle want to strip funding from NPR because they believe – wrongly, in my view – that NPR is biased, then we should be given the same opportunity.”
That amendment, offered in the Rules Committee as an attachment to the anti-NPR bill, went exactly nowhere.