House Republicans Make Another Run at Cutting NPR Funding

BY David Chalian  March 17, 2011 at 8:56 AM EDT

PBS and NPR supporters; photo by Bill Clark/Roll Call

Public broadcasting supporters gather in the Hart Senate Office Building this week to protest cuts to PBS and NPR. Photo by Bill Clark/Roll Call.

The Morning Line

House Republicans are putting funding for NPR back on the chopping block Thursday.

The effort gained momentum last week after conservative activist James O’Keefe released secretly taped videos of an NPR fund-raising executive making derogatory comments about Tea Party supporters to members of a fictitious Muslim group. The controversy led to the resignation of NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller.

On Tuesday, the House passed a three-week temporary spending bill with $6 billion in cuts, including $50 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports NPR and PBS.

The sponsor of Thursday’s stand-alone measure, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., argues the government should not be in the involved in the radio business. “Taxpayers should not be on the hook for something that is widely available in the private market,” Lamborn said in a statement. “I wish only the best for NPR. Like many Americans, I enjoy much of their programming. I believe that they can survive, even thrive, in the free market without the crutch of government subsidies.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Russell Adams and Danny Yadron lay out what the bill would mean for NPR: “The legislation, which was fast-tracked by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and GOP leadership, doesn’t cut any money from the federal budget. Rather, it prohibits NPR and its local affiliates from using federal dollars to produce programming or purchase content from other member stations. Affiliate stations could only use taxpayer money for administrative costs, under the bill.”

Some Democrats have defended NPR from Republican attacks. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, distributed a fund-raising e-mail tied to the GOP’s de-funding effort, Jordan Fabian of The Hill reports.

“They know NPR plays a vital role in providing quality news programming — from rural radio stations to in-depth coverage of foreign affairs,” Rep. Israel writes. “If the Republicans had their way, we’d only be left with the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin to dominate the airwaves.”

House lawmakers passed a measure last month funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year that contained $61 billion in cuts from last year’s spending levels. The targets included zeroing out funding for CPB. That bill failed a test vote in the Senate last week. Going forward, Senate Democrats are expected to block any provision slashing money for public broadcasting as they work with House Republicans on a long-term spending agreement.

REID TAKES SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM OFF THE TABLE

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., appeared to deliver a severe blow to senators from both sides of the aisle who have been working behind the scenes to come up with a plan for shoring up Social Security.

Here’s what he told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Wednesday night:

“I have said clearly and as many times as I can, leave Social Security alone. Social Security has not added a single penny — not a dime, a nickel, a dollar — to the budget problems we have. It never has and for the next 30 years, it won’t do that.

“So what I’ve said, if we want to look at something to take care of the out years, let’s do it at the right time. It is not in crisis at this stage. Leave Social Security alone. We have a lot of other places we can look that is in crisis. But Social Security is not.”

Sen. Reid went on to say that he would be willing to look at the various possible fixes to Social Security (raising taxes, raising the retirement age, slowing the growth rate of benefits) two decades from now. He made clear that he didn’t want any talk of Social Security reform as part of dealing with the deficit and debt crises currently facing the country.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart sent around this recent finding from the independent Social Security Advisory Board.

“It is now clearer than ever before that the longer that Social Security’s projected insolvency remains unad­dressed, the greater will be the risk of decline in the living standards of forthcoming generations of retirees, their dependents and survivors, and the disabled….We again recommend that Congress should act ‘sooner rather than later’ to reform Social Security,” the board wrote in its December 2010 report.

Be on the lookout for how many moderate Democrats up for re-election in purple to red states next year embrace Sen. Reid’s position.

SHE’S BACK!

Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed insurgent who failed in her bid to unseat Sen. Reid last November, announced Wednesday that she would try her hand at running for the House of Representatives for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.

Angle’s decision quashes speculation that she might challenge the current holder of that seat, Rep. Dean Heller, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. John Ensign.

Angle declared her intentions in a YouTube video, striking on similar themes in her Senate race, calling “the enormous debt we’re passing along to our children and our grandchildren” her top concern.

The former Nevada assemblywoman also referenced her 2010 loss to Sen. Reid: “The 2010 election was bittersweet. Conservatives had some victories but we still face obstacles from Democrats in Congress and in the White House.”

The Las Vegas Sun’s Anjeanette Damon reports that Angle is likely to face a competitive GOP nomination process for the House seat. “Other potential candidates in the primary include: Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, Nevada Republican Chairman Mark Amodei, state Sen. Greg Brower and former U.S.S. Cole Commander Kirk Lippold,” Damon writes.

While Nevada politics guru Jon Ralston has dubbed Angle the “favorite” for Rep. Heller’s seat, he also cautioned that recent polling data suggests she has “a real base problem” following her loss to Sen. Reid.

“I have seen the data for the three polls but I am not at liberty to release them,” Ralston reports. “Suffice it so say, they were all taken recently and they all show basically the same thing: Angle’s negatives are soaring among those who at one time swooned over her.”

Ralston notes that the best-case scenario for Angle could be a crowded GOP field, which is exactly what she might get.

TRUMP DOUBTS OBAMA’S CITIZENSHIP

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump says he has a little doubt about President Obama’s citizenship. “Just a little,” he told ABC News’ “Good Morning America.”

“The reason I have a little doubt. Just a little, because he grew up and nobody knew him. Nobody ever comes forward,” Tump said before adding that he found that “very strange.”

By tipping his hat to the Obama critics who question his citizenship, Trump joins other potential presidential candidates (albeit more likely contenders than he), such as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who make glancing references to that segment of the Republican Party without fully ascribing themselves to their beliefs.

Trump is on a very public presidential ruminating tour. The interview with ABC’s Ashleigh Banfield took place aboard his private 727 jet on a flight from New York to Florida.

“I have never been so serious as I am now,” Trump said about his possible run for the White House.

He said he would be willing to spend $600 million of his own money on a campaign — assuming he was doing well in the race.

“Part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich. So, if I need $600 million, I can put up $600 million myself. That’s a huge advantage.”

Trump has said he’ll make his intentions about a possible presidential campaign clear by the end of June, after his “Celebrity Apprentice” show has completed its season on NBC.

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