Congressman Young Against Defunding NPR, Misses Vote

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, D.C.

The House votes today (Thursday) on whether to slash funding for NPR. Congressman Don Young’s office says he would vote against it. He’s missing today’s votes because he’s the keynote speaker at a Native American economic summit. But Young’s office says he’s not on board with the Republican effort to kill NPR‘s funding.

The House took an initial vote to approve ground rules for debate on the NPR bill. It passed 236 to 181, with one Democrat, Heath Schuler of North Carolina voting to move forward. Republicans say cutting NPR’s funding will save money. House members have been making floor speeches on both sides of the issue today. Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer is founder and chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus, and says he’s outraged by the bill. He warned that if became law it would destroy jobs and hurt local communities.

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. Congressman Blumenauer called the video “dishonest and doctored.” Alaska’s Congressman Young has vocalized support for public broadcasting, but he voted for a budget bill last month that would slash funding not only to NPR but to local public broadcasting stations across the country.

UPDATE: Thurs. March 17. 12:00 pm

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 thousand 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 Weiner sarcastically said defunding NPR would save the country from all its troubles, especially if they get rid of the hosts of Car Talk.

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.

Young missed today’s vote because he’s speaking at the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s 25th Annual Reservation Economic Summit and American Indian Business Trade Fair.