House Votes To Defund NPR

The House voted to cut NPR's federal funding. The White House issued a statement Thursday saying the administration opposes the bill.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And on to other business in the House. This afternoon, it passed a bill that aims to eliminate federal funding for NPR programming. It would bar local stations from using government money to buy NPR material. The vote was 228 to 192.

NPR's Audie Cornish has been following the action on the Hill.

AUDIE CORNISH: The very idea of this bill coming to the floor under emergency procedural rules rankled Democrats like New York's Anthony Weiner.

Representative ANTHONY WEINER (Democrat, New York): The American people are not concerned about jobs or the economy, or what's going on around the world. They are staring at their radios, saying: Get rid of Click and Clack. Finally, my Republican friends are doing it. Kudos to you.

(Soundbite of applause)

CORNISH: Democrats and Republicans repeatedly evoked Click and Clack, the nicknames for the hosts of the popular weekend radio show CAR TALK, in the debate over the legislation.

But Florida Republican Rich Nugent says the issue is controlling federal spending.

Representative RICH NUGENT (Republican, Florida): As much as any of us here, including myself, may enjoy programs like CAR TALK, WAIT, WAIT DON'T TELL ME, you can't tell me that that's a core mission of the federal government.

CORNISH: And the focus should be on encouraging a major broadcast organization to be financially independent, argued House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Representative ERIC CANTOR (Republican, Virginia): We've seen NPR and its programming often veer far from what most Americans would like to see as far as the expenditure of their taxpayer dollars. That's the bottom line.

CORNISH: The drive to bar the organization from receiving public funds picked up steam on Capitol Hill last fall, when NPR fired analyst Juan Williams over comments he made about his feelings about Muslims.

Spurring more action? The recent airing of heavily edited, undercover video of NPR's former chief fundraiser speaking disparagingly of the Tea Party, and claiming the organization would be better off without federal funding, in the long run.

But California Democrat Henry Waxman said the bill still allows local radio stations and public television access to federal funds, so no money would be saved.

Representative HENRY WAXMAN (Democrat, California): This legislation does not serve any fiscal purpose. But it does serve an ugly, ideological one. This legislation is not about reforming NPR; it is about punishing NPR.

CORNISH: Today, the White House issued a statement strongly opposing the House measure, which now heads to the Senate. Meanwhile, the Senate cleared a separate, short-term budget bill. It includes $50 million in cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, the Capitol.

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