WASHINGTON – Though not quite yet the "dog days" of summer, Clifford the Big Red Dog (search) came to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to join Democratic members of Congress in lobbying to restore money for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting budget cut by a House panel last week.
The House 2006 spending bill would allocate $300 million in taxpayer dollars to CPB, which allocates funding to PBS. That's $100 million less than the Public Broadcasting Service (search) was expecting.
Critics say the cuts will hurt shows like "Sesame Street" (search) and "Clifford" and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said he has a message for Republicans in Congress: "Keep their hands off PBS or pay the political price for messing with something that is so valuable to all American families."
Congress funds CPB two years in advance, so in 2004 the corporation was promised $400 million for 2006. Some House Republicans say dollars are so tight this year they had to cut money for a number of programs, including CPB.
"Public broadcasting is really not depending on federal support. Only one dollar in every seven that goes into public broadcasting is coming from the federal government. They've done a great job of getting a lot of sponsors — both individuals and corporations — that are funding public broadcasting," said Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla.
Still, PBS is now running ads on some of its TV stations, saying the cuts will have "a devastating effect." It urges viewers to do something about it.
Meanwhile, 16 Senate Democrats are calling for President Bush to fire CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson, who has been pushing for more ideological balance in PBS programming.
"He spent unnecessary funds to investigate individual news programs for bias and the people who were hired had a bias themselves," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
In the letter sent to the president, the senators criticize the Bush administration for appointing Tomlinson to head a "corporation such as public broadcasting."
But Tomlinson wasn't appointed by Bush. He was nominated to the CPB by President Clinton, confirmed by the Senate and then elected as CPB chairman twice by the rest of the board.
At a public board meeting Tuesday, Tomlinson said members of the board leave partisanship at the door. He also made an appeal for more money from Congress.
"Friends of public broadcasting should be focusing on restoring funds cut from the president's CPB budget submission. This is very, very important for all of us," he said.
In a paper statement distributed after the meeting, Tomlinson responded to calls for his resignation or for Bush to fire him.
"There is no reason for me to step down from the chairmanship of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," he said, adding that his actions to make PBS provide more balanced political programming will be shown by the agency's inspector general to be "in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations and traditions of CPB."
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Molly Henneberg.