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House votes to block funding to National Public Radio

WASHINGTON — Following a harshly partisan debate Thursday, the Republican-controlled House approved legislation to block federal funding for National Public Radio.

The resolution, approved 228-192, would not actually reduce federal spending but would block NPR from receiving federal grants and would ban other public radio stations from purchasing National Public Radio programs.

David Pryor, a member of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s board of directors, said the Republican effort would gravely injure public radio stations across the nation that rely on NPR programming.

“It would be a body blow to National Public Radio,” Pryor said.

Local public radio stations get about 10 percent of their income from the federal government. Most pay membership fees to National Public Radio and purchase NPR programs such as “All Things Considered” to augment local programming.

National Public Radio gets no direct federal funds but get grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

House Republicans voted last month to cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of its 2011 budget bill. The Democratic-controlled Senate voted that bill down.

The Senate is likewise expected to reject Thursday’s resolution, which also faces a veto threat from President Barack Obama.

House Republicans and Democrats clashed over the proposal, and the House vote split largely on party lines.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nevada, voted against the resolution, saying it would hurt KNPR in Las Vegas and KUNR in Reno.

“I oppose efforts to cut vital funding for NPR that will also impact Nevada’s public radio stations and their ability to offer listeners programs they enjoy,” Berkley said.

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, supported the resolution .

“Congress must stop spending money we don’t have,” Heller said. “This measure is about taking steps to tighten our belts just as millions of Americans have had to do. Ultimately, we have to prioritize spending and get our fiscal house in order.”

Rep. Joseph Heck, R-Nev., also voted in favor of the resolution.

No Democrat supported the resolution, while seven Republicans opposed it.

Republicans argued that National Public Radio listeners should foot the bill for public radio because taxpayers cannot afford it.

“Our country does not have the money to pay for this,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

Democrats charged that Republicans were on an ideological crusade to eliminate a news source that they perceive as slanted against conservatives.

“It’s not about reforming NPR. It’s about punishing NPR,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Pryor, a Democratic appointee to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting board, said Republicans have had a long-standing vendetta against NPR that has been inflamed recently by the firing of conservative commentator Juan Williams and a hidden-camera sting operation that caught former NPR Foundation president Ron Schiller saying NPR would be better off without federal funding.

“It is an ideological thing,” Pryor said.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at 1-202-783-1760 or purban@stphensmedia.com.

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