Originally published: March 17, 2011
Last updated: March 18, 2011 - 7:52am
The House on voted to cut federal funding for National Public Radio after two hours of debate in which Democrats accused Republicans of following through on a political grudge against NPR, and Republicans insisted that Congress needs to cut spending by all means possible.
The House approved the bill, H.R. 1076, by a 228-192 vote. Every voting Democrat voted against it, and seven Republicans joined them: Reps. Sean Duffy (WI), Chris Gibson (NY), Richard Hanna (NY), Steve LaTourette (OH), Dave Reichert (WA), Patrick Tiberi (OH), and Rob Woodall (GA).
Republicans insisted that they held no political grudge against NPR, and said the recent video of NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller saying NPR doesn't need federal funds is a signal that funding can be cut. Democrats alternately criticized Republicans for cutting a valuable service, and mocked them by casting their proposal as an attack on specific NPR radio hosts. House Rules Committee Ranking Member Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said Republicans told her on Wednesday that taxpayers should not have to pay for items they disagree with, which she rejected. "Well, that's an interesting theory, but democracies don't work that way," Rep Slaughter said. "If they could, my husband and I and two-thirds of people in America would gladly be excused from paying the $8 billion a month that we pay for a war that we profoundly disagree with."
Because the legislation did not go through the normal Committee process, there have been no hearings, testimony, or expert review, and, a House Commerce Committee minority staff memo pointed out, Members of Congress might have little information about the impact of this legislation. The staff provided analysis, on a district by district basis, about how the legislation will affect public radio stations. Overall, this analysis, which focuses on public radio stations that receive CPB grants, finds that prohibiting the use of federal funds to purchase radio content would negatively impact 414 stations across the country. These stations serve listening areas in 280 congressional districts in all 50 states. They provide a total of 7,800 jobs.
Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said: "Today, the House passed a bill that would significantly restrict public broadcasting stations' ability to acquire programming that they feel best serves the needs of their communities. Every day, these stations serve the informational and educational needs of the public with programming that contributes to the health and well-being of the country in a way that would not be possible without federal support. The American people overwhelmingly agree that public broadcasting is a service worthy of the federal investment. At a time when international events, such as the recent uprisings in Libya and the earthquake in Japan, have a direct and immediate impact on this country, public media serves as a trusted source for informative, in-depth coverage of international, national and local news. Rather than penalize public broadcasting, the debate should focus on strengthening and supporting this valuable national asset."
The Obama Administration said it "strongly opposes" a House measure that would permanently defund NPR, but stopped short of making a veto threat. The Administration publicized its stance on the Republican-sponsored bill just a few hours before the House is expected to vote on it. In lieu of the move to ban funding, the Obama administration noted that the president's budget calls for "targeted reductions" to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the main federal funding arm for NPR and the Public Broadcasting Service. "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," reads a statement from the Office of Management and Budget.
"At a time when other news organizations are cutting back and the voices of pundits are drowning out fact-based reporting and thoughtful analysis, NPR and public radio stations are delivering in-depth news and information respectfully and with civility," said NPR's interim CEO Joyce Slocum. "It would be a tragedy for America to lose this national treasure."
"This legislation, which would destroy a public radio system that has served the American people well for 40 years, has been passed by the House without the benefit of a single hearing on the subject," said Patrick Butler, president of the Public Media Association (PMA). ""While it has been portrayed as responding to the will of the American people, the legislation in fact defies the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans, who have consistently said they support continued funding of public broadcasting and view it as the second-best use of tax dollars, exceeded only by national defense."
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