Dems blast GOP move to strip NPR of funding

The House voted 228-192 today to strip National Public Radio of federal funding.

All of the yes votes were Republicans; seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats against HR 1076. The bill faces dim prospects in the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate, but has Democrats’ and public radio supporters’ blood boiling nonetheless.

NPRRepublicans rushed the bill to the floor after last week’s resignation of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, following a political activist’s video “sting” in which a high-ranking NPR fundraising official was caught expressing his personal, derogatory opinions about tea-party conservatives to people posing as donors from a Muslim philanthropy. Since the resignation, questions have arisen – even from right-wing icon Glenn Beck’s The Blaze – about whether the video was intentionally edited to mislead.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, co-chair of the Public Broadcasting Caucus and the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, led opposition to the bill.

“Republicans have declared an emergency to rush this bill to the Floor without any hearings to examine the proposal. We have many emergencies to deal with in our county, but attacking and crippling NPR is hardly an emergency,” Eshoo said in a news release.
“This proposal is not about reducing the deficit or cutting federal spending. In fact, the bill doesn’t produce a cent in savings, and will threaten 9,000 jobs at stations across the country. This bill was rooted in an ideological view about what NPR broadcasts and capitalizes on recent headlines.”

Eshoo’s office said more than 34 million Americans listen to NPR programming through more than 900 local stations across the U.S., Guam and the Virgin Islands. HR 1076 would cut off all federal funding to NPR, preventing any support to NPR by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and would prohibit public radio stations from using federal funds to acquire popular NPR programs such as “This American Life,” “Prairie Home Companion,” “Morning Edition,” “Car Talk,” “All Things Considered,” “Classical 24,” “World Café,” and “On Point” among others.

“This bill will affect 740,000 KQED listeners in my district who rely on public broadcasting for news and entertainment,” Eshoo said. “The legislation also impacts rural communities where public radio is often the only radio and where a quarter of a station’s budget is funded with federal support. These stations provide an important public service to the local community and people trust and enjoy the programming.”

“Simply put, this bill threatens jobs and undermines the important news and information that public radio provides to Americans each and every day. NPR and its member stations don’t deserve this treatment.”

Earlier, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, had urged the House to oppose the bill:

The attack on NPR, just like the attack on Planned Parenthood, or on Head Start, and on workers’ rights and safety, has nothing to do with reducing the deficit and the debt. It is nothing more than a partisan political agenda that is out of step with, and very dangerous to, the American people.

The attack on NPR is outrageous and it should be rejected. The American people benefit greatly having this source of news that is free from the influence and demands of corporations and that consistently delivers top quality, in-depth, and breaking news on foreign affairs, science and technology, politics, the arts, and business.

If this leadership is so concerned with the deficit, why hasn’t it called up legislation to reduce tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to major oil companies, companies with record profits quarter after quarter and no need for subsidies to carry out their work?

Why hasn’t this leadership called up legislation to reduce some of the billions of dollars in Pentagon waste documented year after year?

And why was this leadership’s first major action in the House a bill that would increase the deficit over the next ten years by more than $210 billion by repealing our historic health care law?

Why? Because their rhetoric about deficit reduction is just a cover for a divisive political agenda that they hope will help them in the next election.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY, raised a complaint that today’s vote – coming only about 48 hours after the bill was posted to the Internet – violates a rule set earlier this year by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promising that bills would be publicly available for at least three days before any vote:

(Full disclosure: Regular readers here will recall I’m often a guest on KQED TV’s “This Week in Northern California.” So far as I know, today’s bill has nothing to do with public television.)

More, after the jump…

UPDATE @ 3:06 P.M.: From Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma:

“When is the majority going to try to solve a real problem?

“Their reaction to unemployment is: ‘So be it.’ Their reaction to an immoral Afghanistan policy — a big shrug.

“But a modest investment in educational, commercial-free programming? Now that’s a national crisis. I guess they figure if we can’t catch Osama bin Laden, they might as well go after ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ instead.

“They say NPR has a ‘bias.’ Well I say the oil companies have a bias – a bias against the planet earth. But somehow I’m guessing repealing their lavish subsidies is not the next item of business before the House.

“Public broadcasting performs a vital function in a democracy. It’s also twice as popular as the Afghanistan war. Plus it supports 21,000 jobs, which is 21,000 more jobs than the Republican agenda would create.

“And the idea that we need to give up this cherished public resource because of something someone said over lunch in a videotape that was doctored by a conservative activist… give me a break.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    You can always count on the Bay Area congressional delegation–to make asses of themselves.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Elwood, that’s obvious. They’re all Democrat donkeys.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Wait until Senator Feinstein’s bill to legalize gay marriage reaches the House. The 2 Chambers of Congress are now Bipolar.