Fresh off a new round of righteous indignation sparked by a hidden-camera sting, Republicans were taking on NPR on the House floor Thursday morning, seeking to strip any federal funding the news organization receives.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., introduced a resolution prohibiting NPR from receiving federal funds, either directly, or from member stations. Lamborn, who proposed a similar bill last year, insists his proposal isn't meant to cripple the organization, but simply save taxpayer money.
"Taxpayers should not be on the hook for something that is widely available in the private market," he said. "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."
Republicans characterized the resolution as a budget-cutting measure while Democrats said the effort was a blatantly partisan attack on a popular and important news and information service.
"Public radio is an institution that allows democracy to thrive," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.
Conservative activists released a video earlier this month that showed NPR fundraising executive Ronald Schiller telling people posing as Muslim philanthropists that Tea Party supporters are "seriously racist, racist people." In the video, later shown to have been heavily edited, Schiller also said he thinks NPR does not need federal funding, contradicting assertions by other executives.
Schiller was already on his way to a new job with the Aspen Institute, a position he turned down after the video became public. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller resigned a day later.
Republicans concerns over NPR reached a new high late last year when the organization fired commentator Juan Williams for comments he made on a Fox News show. On Tuesday the House voted to cut $50 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps support NPR, as well as PBS.
On Thursday the White House came out strongly against defunding NPR or the CPB, calling the measures unacceptable.
"The vast majority of CPB's funding for public radio goes to more than 700 stations across the country, many of them local stations serving communities that rely on them for access to news and public safety information," said the Statement of Administration Policy. "Undercutting funding for these radio stations, notably ones in rural areas where such outlets are already scarce, would result in communities losing valuable programming, and some stations could be forced to shut down altogether."