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Posted at 03:35 PM ET, 03/17/2011

House votes to defund NPR

Updated 3:30 p.m.

After a contentious debate and over procedural objections from Democrats, the House on Thursday voted to prevent federal funds from going to National Public Radio.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), passed the House on a 228-to-192 vote, with one Republican voting present. All but seven Republicans voted for the measure, and all Democrats present voted against it.

The measure is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate. The White House on Thursday issued a statement “strongly opposing” the bill but stopping short of a veto threat.

The bill would ban any federal money from going to NPR, including funding through competitive grants from federal agencies and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. NPR receives about $5 million annually in such funds. The bill would also prohibit NPR’s roughly 600 member stations from using federal funds to purchase programming from NPR and to pay station dues.

The push to defund NPR follows the departure from the organization of its chief executive, Vivian Schiller, and its top fundraiser, Ron Schiller (no relation), in the wake of a hidden-camera video sting by conservative activists that showed Ron Schiller making controversial remarks about Republicans and tea party members.

Democrats argued that the bill would not actually lower the deficit and charged that Republicans were simply taking aim at NPR because they disagree with its content.

“This bill does not cut one dollar, one dime, one penny from the federal deficit,” McGovern said, adding that if the debate is about whether or not the American people should be forced to subsidize content they disagree with, federal funding of advertising on Fox News Channel should also be up for debate.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said that even if the measure were to pass the Senate and be signed into law – the chances of which are close to zero – NPR would continue to exist, but “what it does is harm small, rural stations” that are dependent on federal funds.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, called the bill a “purely ideological bill so members can go home and brag about what they have done to NPR” when they return to their districts later Thursday for a week-long recess.

Several of the Republicans who spoke in favor of the measure said they personally enjoyed NPR but did not believe it should be funded through taxpayer dollars.

Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said he appreciated some of NPR’s programming but added that “half the American people have never even heard of, much less even listened to, NPR.”

Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) argued that those watching the House debate on Thursday were likely watching it on C-SPAN, which doesn’t receive federal funding.

“A lot of us like NPR,” he said, later adding: “We’re not trying to harm NPR. We’re actually trying to liberate them from federal tax dollars.”

Just before a Thursday morning vote to consider the measure, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) raised a procedural objection to proceeding on the bill, arguing that the quick action on the proposal – which was first posted on the Internet at 1:42 p.m. Tuesday – violated House Republican leaders’ pledge to post all bills online for 72 hours before bringing them to the floor.

“Did this bill age for 72 hours?” Weiner asked, waving a large blue posterboard bearing House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) statement, “I will not bring a bill to the floor that has not been posted online for 72 hours.”

Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe, who was presiding over the chamber, replied that he would not respond to “hypothetical questions.”

Jo Maney, a spokesperson for House Rules Committee Republicans, maintained that consideration of the measure did not violate the three-day rule because it was posted on Day 1, was in the Rules Committee on Day 2 and was on the floor on Day 3, with final passage set to take place 72 hours after the bill was first posted.

Democrats also objected to the bill being fast-tracked to the floor without being thoroughly debated in public committee hearings. The Rules Committee approved the measure on Wednesday in an “emergency meeting.”

“The process in this House is awful,” Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) said. “An emergency! Think it was about jobs? Think it was about health care? No! It was about defunding NPR.”

Republicans defended the process, arguing that the seven-page bill addresses a straightforward question.

“It’s basically a yes or no question,” Maney said. “Do we continue taxpayer funding of NPR or not?”

By  |  03:35 PM ET, 03/17/2011

 
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