The decision on the bill, which is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate, largely amounts to a messaging vote for House Republicans ahead of a week-long recess. The White House issued a statement Thursday “strongly opposing” the bill but stopping short of a veto threat.
The measure 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 or to pay station dues.
The push to defund NPR follows the departure 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 captured Ron Schiller making controversial remarks about Republicans and tea party members.
In a lengthy statement Thursday night, NPR expressed “grave concern” over the impact the House bill would have on the public radio system if enacted.
“At a time when other news organizations are cutting back and the voices of pundits are drowning out fact-based reporting and thoughtful analysis, NPR and public radio stations are delivering in-depth news and information respectfully and with civility,” said Joyce Slocum, NPR’s interim chief executive. “It would be a tragedy for America to lose this national treasure.”
During Thursday’s floor debate, Democrats argued that the bill would not actually lower the deficit and accused Republicans of taking aim at NPR simply because they disagree with its content.
“This bill does not cut one dollar, one dime, one penny from the federal deficit,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said, adding that if the debate is about whether the American people should be forced to subsidize content they disagree with, federal funding of advertising on Fox News Channel should also be at issue.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said that even if the measure were to pass the Senate and be signed into law, NPR would continue to exist, but “what [the bill] does is harm small, rural stations” that depend on federal funds.
Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (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” during next week’s recess.
Several of the Republicans who spoke in favor of the measure Thursday said that they enjoyed NPR but that it should not be funded with taxpayer dollars.