The U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund National Public Radio (NPR) from all public sources of funding, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), on Thursday afternoon, 228-192. Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn’s bill, HR 1076, cuts off all federal taxpayer money from being used to support NPR. The publicly-funded radio network currently receives funding through CPB and through its member stations, which are forced to use part of their federal grants to purchase programming from the national headquarters.
Lamborn’s bill also cuts NPR’s taxpayer funding from the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce and the National Endowment for the Arts. The bill does not, however, prohibit local stations from using state or local tax money to purchase content from NPR’s headquarters, nor does it prohibit them from using grant funds to produce their own local news programming.
Democrats on the House Rules Committee have said Republicans are using the recent sting videos conservative James O’Keefe released and the Juan Williams debacle as a reason to pursue what they consider an ideological mission by the GOP to defund NPR. Lamborn contests that allegation, saying that he introduced similar legislation in the last Congress and had this bill ready to go at the beginning of this session, before O’Keefe’s video stings made headlines.
“Long before any of the recent news stories on videos or the Juan Williams fiasco, I sponsored legislation in Congress to pull the plug on taxpayer funding for NPR,” Lamborn said on the House floor on Thursday morning. “I enjoy some programs on NPR, but I have long believed that it can stand on its own. The point at issue is not the quality or content of programming on NPR. The point is not the degree to which Americans support the arts, radio news, and educational programs.”
Debate on the House floor was heated – Democrats framed the issue as Republicans trying to use the financial crisis as a means to win an ideological battle – and Republicans shot back saying they need to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.
Rep. Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, said Americans “don’t have to be Dick Tracy to figure out” the debate is really an ideological fight.
“It’s really about an ancient animosity which the Republican Party has had to the very creation of NPR, through Newt Gingrich, through the early years of the 21st century, right up to today, where it’s on a list of grievances which they have about this ability of NPR to provide this news and information,” Markey said.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, countered Markey’s statement by saying, ”you don’t have to be Dick Tracy to figure out” the debate is really about cutting spending. “It’s about saving taxpayer money,” Blackburn said. “We do not have a revenue problem in this town. We have a spending problem in this town. The federal government does not have the money to fund these programs.”
Democrats tried to send the bill back to committee by saying it would hurt the Amber Alert program for missing children – which isn’t the case. A floor vote stopped the Democrats’ attempt.
UPDATE 5:15 p.m.:
The bill’s sponsor, Congressman Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican, said the vote to defund NPR “sends a strong message that Congress is serious about cutting spending.
“With trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, under Barack Obama, we must begin to cut all unnecessary spending,” Lamborn said in a statement. “When the federal government gets its spending under control, the small businesses and entrepreneurs of our country will begin investing again with confidence. That, ultimately, will lead to the creation of private sector jobs Americans are looking for.”
Lamborn added that, “in an era of 500-channel cable TV and live streaming video over the Internet, there is no need for taxpayer subsidized media.”