Libby Casey, APRN – Washington
The U.S. House has voted to slash funding for NPR. The Republican-led effort passed 228 to 192. Congressman Don Young did not vote. His office says he missed the vote because he’s giving the keynote speech at a Native American economic summit. But his spokeswoman says he would have voted no on defunding NPR. That’s significant because only 7 Republicans cast nay votes.
The bill cuts NPR’s funding and federal money to radio stations to pay NPR programming fees. It now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to die.
Debate on the House floor today ranged from passionate speeches by Democrats in support of NPR’s mission and programming, to slams by Republicans who said taxpayer dollars should not pay for it. Republicans expressed outrage at funds spent paying NPR executive salaries, while Democrats said NPR provides 20,000 jobs, and that cutting its money would do nothing to reduce the debt. Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn led the Republican side of the debate and said taking away station’s money to pay NPR dues would actually free up radio stations to create more original content and hire more local talent.
Democratic speakers dismissed her claims, and New York Democrat Anthony Weine sarcastically said defunding NPR would save the country from all its troubles, especially if they get rid of the hosts of Car Talk. NPR is under scrutiny after a conservative activist recorded a secret video of the company’s former top fundraiser Ron Schiller in what the executive didn’t realize was a fake, set-up business meeting. The video was edited to show Schiller’s comments in the worst light.
Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer is founder and chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus, and called the video “dishonest and doctored.” But Republican detractors of NPR said the video revealed NPR’s liberal bias. Alaska’s Congressman Young has vocalized support for public broadcasting, but he voted for a budget bill last month that stripped the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from its federal funds. That would hit national public radio and TV programming and local stations. Senator Lisa Murkowski also voted for that spending bill, but has said she supports public broadcasting in Alaska and that the vote was symbolic.