U.S. House Votes to Cut NPR Funding

BY Terence Burlij  March 17, 2011 at 3:53 PM EDT

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

Updated at 6:25 p.m. with NPR statement | The House of Representatives approved a measure Thursday to bar federal funding of National Public Radio. The bill also prohibits public radio stations from using federal grant money to pay dues to NPR.

The 228-192 vote came mostly along party lines, with most Republicans backing the proposal and nearly all Democrats opposed. Republicans said it was time for the federal government to get out of the radio business.

“I’m a strong believer in the free market,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., the bill’s sponsor. “I’d like to see NPR rework its business model and begin to compete for all of its income.”

The effort to cut funding comes a week after conservative activists secretly recorded an NPR executive making derogatory comments about Tea Party supporters. The ensuing controversy led to the resignation of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller.

Joyce Slocum, NPR’s interim CEO, released a statement Thursday afternoon after the vote:

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. It would be a tragedy for America to lose this national treasure.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said taxpayers no longer wanted to spend money on the content NPR provides. “The problem is, we’ve seen NPR and its programming often veer far from what most Americans would like to see as far as the expenditure of their taxpayer dollars. That’s the bottom line. Nobody is on a rampage. Nobody is trying to say that we don’t like NPR for NPR’s sake,” Cantor argued.

Democrats, meanwhile, accused Republicans of trying to control the airwaves. “Under the guise of saving taxpayer dollars what they’re doing is silencing NPR — not because it saves money, but because it is not on the same ideological frequency of the extreme right,” said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.

Others Democrats chided Republicans for wasting valuable time that could be spent on more important matters. “The Republican Party — no one can say they’re not in touch, they get it,” remarked Rep. Anthony Weiner, sarcastically. “They understand where the American people are. The American people are not concerned about jobs and the economy or what’s going on around the world. They’re staring at the radio saying, ‘Get rid of Click and Clack.’ Finally my Republican friends are doing it. Kudos to you!”

Weiner was referencing “Car Talk,” NPR’s automotive advice program hosted by the Tappet brothers.

The legislation passed Thursday faces an uphill climb in the Senate, where the Democratic majority is likely to oppose it.

President Obama also made public his objections to the effort to chop NPR’s funding Thursday, releasing a statement saying the action “would result in communities losing valuable programming.”

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.

That funding had already been identified by the president for elimination in his budget request for the upcoming year.