The NPR funding debate

Live-blogging the highlights of today’s debate over stripping NPR of funding and prohibiting public radio stations from using public funding to purchase programming.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass: “They want to move to radio silence and when the American people find out about that, they’re going to be outraged.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn: “It is a wealthy, educated listening audience. If people want this programming, they’re going to be willing to pay for it but the American taxpayer has said, ‘get NPR out of our pocket.’ They have some sponsors that land in the $1 million plus category.”

Rep. John Dingel, D-Mich., “Public broadcast is a national treasure… It sheds a little bit of culture on our people, something my Republican colleagues find offensive.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon: “It’s not going to stop NPR, which will go on. What it will cripple is what happens in smaller stations around the country.”

Rep. John Larson, D-CT: “Americans are seeing through this… it’s an ideological purge under the guise of dealing with the deficit… What they are doing is silencing NPR because it’s not on the same ideological frequency as the extreme right.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-CA. “I guess they figure if they can’t catch Bin Laden, they might as well go after Prairie Home Companion. Public broadcasting is twice as popular as the Afghanistan war.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas: “These Republicans just can’t tell the difference between Big Government and Big Bird. All things considered, their attack has nothing to do with balancing the budget.

Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fl. ” The CEO of Sesame Street makes $956 million. Are we serious?

Rep. Renee Ellmers R-NC: “The bill would prohibit public radio from using federal funds for the production or acquisition of programming. I don’t believe NPR has the right to public funds to our hard-earned taxpayer dollars when they have funding from private interests.

Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ: “Saying factual information is somehow a liberal bias… we talk about the need for a well-informed public. Today there was a news report on the slow progress the Army is making on seeing that the wounded soldiers get their Purple Heart. This is good reporting. The other side seems to think this is… wait, wait, don’t tell me…. biased reporting. We need NPR.”

Rep. Carolyn Mahoney, D-NY: “Those who primarily listen to NPR were considerably less likely to hold demonstrably false beliefs. So now our colleagues across the country want to pull the plug on NPR… our colleagues want to fire the messenger. (It) is not a move to save money; it’s a move to save face.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn: (Closing) This bill isn’t about taking NPR off the air. What it simply says is if you are an affiliate station and you want to pay NPR dues, you can’t use taxpayer dollars. If you want to buy NPR programming, you can’t use taxpayer dollars for that. There’s plenty of popular programming out there… if listeners like the NPR that they have, they can keep it. They need to raise the money for this.

(Their audience) is college educated, the average household income is $86,000 a year… NPR has said they don’t need our taxpayer funding. There are 17 different positions attached to creating one hour radio show. There are talented people all over this nation who would love to have a platform that they would like to create. The time has come for us to claw back this money… and send a message.

1:44 p.m. – Democrats try to amend the bill to allow public radio to air Amber Alerts, presumably using taxpayer funding.

Rep. Blackburn: “This is a procedural move to try to derail the funding to NPR. There’s nothing in the bill preventing Amber Alerts. (Amendment defeated. A 15-minute roll call vote follows)

2:15 p.m. – On a quick voice vote, Democrats out-shout Republicans on the bill, but a roll call has now been ordered.

2:23 p.m. – The bill defunding NPR has passed 228-192. One congressperson voted “present.”

Here’s the roll call.