Taxes & Spending

House to Vote to Prohibit Federal Funds for NPR

UPDATE: The House voted Thursday to prohibit federal funding of National Public Radio and the use of federal funds to acquire radio content. The vote was 228-192, with one voting present.

The Republican leadership will bring a bill to the floor on Thursday to permanently prohibit federal funding of National Public Radio (NPR). The bill comes one week after NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller resigned, in the wake of her fundraiser being caught on video defaming the Tea Party, and five months after Schiller’s controversial firing of Juan Williams.

“Washington is now borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends. Given the burden we’re piling on our kids and grandkids, Congress shouldn’t be spending taxpayers’ money to support a radio network that — by its own admission — could survive without public funding,” Speaker of the House John Boehner (R.-Ohio) told HUMAN EVENTS.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R.-Colo.) introduced the bill (H.R. 1076), which permanently bans any federal funds from going to NPR or to acquire radio content. 

The timing of this week’s vote on NPR funding is in reaction to NPR Foundation President Ron Schiller saying that members of the Tea Party are “seriously racist,” “scary,” and “weird evangelical.” Schiller made these comments in an undercover video sting by conservative activist James O’Keefe.

Also, Schiller said on the video that NPR “would be better off in the long run without federal funding.”

“When NPR’s former head of development is caught on tape saying NPR doesn’t need federal funding, it becomes an obvious target for cuts.  I don’t want taxpayers on the hook for a program that can survive on its own,” Lamborn told HUMAN EVENTS.

Lamborn’s bill is not an appropriations bill so it does not cut off this year’s funding, but sets the legislative authorization for future funding for NPR.

This bill would also prohibit the 764 NPR affiliate stations from using federal funds to pay NPR dues. However, the bill allows the stations to use federal funds for administrative expenses associated with their day-to-day operations.

“We must prioritize our spending and cut nonessential programs. I believe National Public Radio will survive, and even thrive in the free market. When the federal government gets its fiscal house in order, we will begin to see the private sector invest with confidence. This is what will lead to job creation in our country,” Lamborn told HUMAN EVENTS.

While Republicans have long supported defunding NPR because of its openly liberal agenda while being partly funded by taxpayer dollars, recent events have made the issue a top priority.

Within 24 hours of the undercover video’s release, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation to Ron) submitted her resignation. CEO Schiller had only recently weathered the firestorm of protest when she summarily fired Juan Williams for saying that since 9/11, he gets nervous flying on airplanes with passengers wearing Muslim attire.

Williams made the comments on the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor”.  “I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” said Williams. “But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

A ten-year NPR correspondent, Williams was fired over the phone without being given a chance to defend his comments. NPR put out a statement that said Williams was fired because his comments were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

The uproar over the firing was as much about the out-of-control PC environment at NPR, as much as the belief that Williams was fired because he is also a contributor to the right-leaning Fox News.

Since taking over the House in January,  GOP leadership has pushed to defund NPR through several avenues.

First, the House cut public broadcasting spending in the Continuing Resolution (CR) in February which cut spending by $61 billion in the current fiscal year. This long-term CR which was rejected by the Democrat Senate.

Primarily, the CR (H.R. 1) did not provide for any funding for the current fiscal year for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) which oversees dispersing federal money to NPR and other radio and TV public broadcasting outlets. Also, the CR included a provision to identify and return all un-obligated spending and rescinded $86 million for a few specific programs.

Furthermore, the House passed a three-week CR on Tuesday, which cut $50 million from the CPB’s budget this year. This short-term CR is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama by Friday.

NPR receives federal money through the CPB from three federal funding streams.

The CPB has given occasional grants to NPR since 2009, which have totaled over $8 million. In addition, the formerly Democrat controlled Congress appropriated a three-year, $78 million funding for NPR.  This funding stream gave NPR $26 million per year in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Also, NPR member stations receive funds from a $90 million per year, congressional-mandated effort to support public radio stations in the U.S. The specific percent of the $90 million that goes to NPR member stations is unclear.

The Lamborn bill is expected to pass the House on Thursday by party line votes.  But, the bill is not likely to pass the Democrat Senate.

Later this year, Lamborn will bring up anther bill (H.R. 69) which would eliminate the CPB entirely. Also, as Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R.-Ky.) supported defunding the CPB in the CR, it is expected he will include that provision in a spending bill for Fiscal Year 2012. Suffice it to say, taxpayer funding of public broadcasting may soon be a thing of the past.

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