House approves GOP bill to defund NPR

The House on Thursday passed a bill to defund NPR, a measure strongly opposed by the White House but one Republicans say will save taxpayer money.

The GOP-backed measure, which will be sent to the Senate, passed 228-192. One Republican voted present, and seven voted against the bill. No Democrats supported it.

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Thursday's vote delivers another blow to NPR, which has suffered a wave of bad press in recent weeks.

NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller was placed on administrative leave last week, following the release of video footage that showed him criticizing the Tea Party and claiming NPR could survive without federal funds. NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller also resigned amid the controversy, reportedly at the behest of the company's board of directors.

The bill — sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) — has only a slim chance of becoming law. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not say Thursday whether the upper chamber would consider the legislation, but indicated he does not support defunding.

"Public radio and the top-notch journalists it employs are valuable resources to people of all ages across the country, and I can't understand why Republicans would want to take that away from them," Reid said in a statement.

The White House said Thursday the administration "strongly opposes" the bill, but stopped short of making a veto threat.

If the legislation were enacted, it would permanently prohibit direct federal funding to NPR, ban public radio stations from using federal funds to pay their NPR dues and prevent those stations from using federal dollars to buy programming. 

Some Republicans on the floor accused NPR of liberal bias and almost all said it could survive without federal funds.

"I happen to be a fan of National Public Radio, but I think the term  'national treasure' may just be a little bit of a stretch," Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said of the Democrats' defense of NPR.

"We're not trying to harm NPR," added freshman Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.). "We're actually tying to liberate them from federal tax dollars."

Democrats accused Republicans of holding the NPR vote for political purposes and ignoring jobs and real deficit reduction. One lawmaker attacked the video of NPR executives, filmed by conservative activists, as dishonest.

"James O’Keefe’s dishonest hatchet job has no place in this discussion over the future of one of America’s most important national treasures," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

“The Republican legislation attacking National Public Radio would drive ‘Car Talk’ off the road and would wipe ‘Lake Wobegon’ right off the map. It would close down ‘Marketplace’ and tell ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’ to take a hike," added Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

The GOP has already moved to defund NPR; it attached language to its long-term continuing resolution that strips money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the entity that funds NPR and the Public Broadcasting Service. That bill failed to clear the Senate.

The stopgap continuing resolution, which the Senate was expected to approve and send to President Obama on Thursday afternoon, contains $50 million in cuts to the CPB. Those reductions were also recommended in Obama's budget request.