WASHINGTON – The House Rules Committee on Wednesday voted 6-5 to defund National Public Radio after an emergency hearing called by Republicans, sending the measure to the floor for debate Thursday.
The committee examined and approved H.R. 1070, a bill designed "to prohibit Federal funding of National Public Radio," the radio and online news source long targeted by Republicans for perceived liberal bias. (Some liberals have, on the other hand, labeled them too conservative.) It was the latest in a series of bills successfully maneuvering through the GOP-controlled House but poised to die in the Democratic-led Senate.
The legislation's sponsor, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), called the hearing "an exciting and significant step forward in the ongoing effort to protect taxpayer dollars from supporting programs that are fully capable of standing on their own."
Democrats weren't pleased with the new-found GOP push, brought about after a video prank by conservative activist James O'Keefe was spliced to falsely portray NPR executives as sympathetic to Sharia law. One NPR executive was caught saying the tea party movement was full of racist people.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, accused Republicans of "pandering to a few far-right ideologues" and "rushing" the bill through under emergency procedures without the usual committee hearings and markups.
"NPR plays a valuable role in providing millions of Americans with in-depth reporting and is often the only source of reliable news in rural parts of the country. NPR doesn't try to blur the line between opinion, fact and political agenda," she said.
Interestingly, key Republicans supporting H.R. 1070 have pivoted from criticizing NPR in favor of a different strategy: Lavishing the news organization with praise and insisting that it's strong enough to survive in the marketplace without any federal funding.
Jo Maney, a spokeswoman for Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA), told Raw Story that the congressman "is a long time supporter of NPR. He listens daily and believes they deliver a great product. However, in this era of trillion dollar deficits, he wants to help create a post-taxpayer funded model for NPR and the [Corporation for Public Broadcasting]."
Added Lamborn in a statement: "I wish only the best for NPR. Like many Americans, I enjoy much of their programming. I believe that they can survive, even thrive, in the free market without the crutch of government subsidies."
NPR receives about 2 percent of its revenues from federal funding provided to the CPB.