House votes to ax $5M from 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 standalone bill has only a slim chance of becoming law. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not say whether the upper chamber would consider the legislation, but indicated he does not support defunding. 

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“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 the administration “strongly opposes” the bill, but stopped short of making a veto threat.

The GOP-backed measure, sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), passed 228-192. One Republican voted present, and seven voted against the bill. No Democrats supported it.

The seven Republicans who voted against the bill include four GOP freshmen — Reps. Sean Duffy (Wis.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.) and Rob Woodall (Ga.). Of the four, just Duffy and Hanna endured close races in 2010. 

Republican Reps. Steven LaTourette (Ohio), Patrick Tiberi (Ohio) and Dave Reichert (Wash.) also voted against defunding public broadcasting. Freshman Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) voted present.

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.

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. NPR received about $5 million in federal funds last year.

Some Republicans, during the debate on the House floor, accused NPR of a liberal bias, and almost all said it could survive without federal money. 

“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. Edward 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 three-week continuing resolution to fund the government, which the Senate approved Thursday afternoon, contains $50 million in cuts to the CPB. Those reductions were also recommended in President Obama’s budget request.

Shane D’Aprile contributed to this article.