Houses Passes Bill Stripping Federal Funding for NPR

Democrats dismissed the bill as a "distraction" and a "political stunt."

ByABC News
March 17, 2011, 12:37 PM

March 17, 2011— -- In a largely symbolic move, the House today voted to block all federal funding for NPR, a week after the embattled public radio station found itself the subject of a conservative activist's sting that led to the ouster of its chief executive.

The bill passed by a 228-192 vote. No Democrats voted for it, and only 7 Republicans voted against the measure.

The bill would permanently block all federal funding to NPR and its affiliates and prohibits stations from using federal funds to pay NPR dues and to purchase programming. It would basically bar NPR from applying for grants provided by federal agencies such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Department of Education, Department of Commerce and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The House GOP continuing resolution that would fund the government for the remainder of the year already rescinds funding for the CPB, which also funds Public Broadcasting Service, and zeroes out millions in funds after that.

NPR today said cutting funding would "ultimately choke local stations' ability to serve their audiences," and put many small-station budgets in "a serious financial bind."

"The bill stunts the growth of new, diverse programming and threatens the continuation of existing efforts to serve diverse audiences by clamping down on CPB's Program Fund," NPR's interim chief executive Joyce Slocum said in a statement.

The vote is largely symbolic because it's unlikely to pass in the Senate or be signed by President Obama. But after the release of the controversial tape last week, in which former NPR executive Ron Schiller was caught blasting Republicans and the Tea Party with two members of a fictitious Muslim group, Republicans have seized on public broadcasting funding even more.

Schiller also said NPR and most of its member stations would survive without federal funding.

"We saw... on video, executives at NPR saying that they don't need taxpayer dollars," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said today. "We are also in the process of making sure that Washington begins to do what every American family and small businessperson is having to do right now. It's called tightening the belt."

The White House today released a statement strongly opposing the bill but did not issue a veto threat.

"Undercutting funding for these radio stations, notably ones in rural areas where such outlets are already scarce, would result in communities losing valuable programming, and some stations could be forced to shut down altogether," the White House said.

GOP leaders argue that NPR can survive on its own without federal funding and that at a time of budget concerns, such a cut is necessary.

"The federal addiction for spending has driven us into debt," Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Fla., said today. "We should not use tax dollars for something that can be paid for privately."

Democrats charge that Republicans are playing politics at a time when lawmakers should be focused on the economy and jobs, with one member of Congress calling it a "political stunt."

"This bill is a distraction, not a serious piece of legislation," Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said, calling it a "frivolous measure."