House Dems Reject GOP Proposal to Defund NPR

House Democrats on Thursday rejected a GOP proposal to cut federal funding to National Public Radio, which has been under fire ever since it sacked Juan Williams last month.

The proposal, which was the winning entry this week in YouCut -- an anti-government spending program started by House Republicans earlier this year -- failed by a vote of 239-171.

NPR praised the outcome, saying "good judgment prevailed as Congress rejected a move to assert government control over the content of news."

"The proposal to prohibit public radio stations from using CPB grants to purchase NPR programming is an unwarranted attempt to interject federal authority into local station program decision-making," NPR said, referring to its parent organization, Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

"In an increasingly fractious media environment, public radio's value in fostering an informed society has never been more critical. Our growing audience shows that we are meeting that need," NPR said. "It is imperative for federal funding to continue to ensure that this essential tool of democracy remains available to all Americans and thrives well into the future."

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YouCut is an online contest that allows Americans to vote for the items they want slashed from the federal budget. That NPR proposal received 63 percent of the vote, the highest percentage for a proposal since the program began in May.

"When NPR executives made the decision to unfairly terminate Juan Williams and to then disparage him afterward, the bias of their organization was exposed," House Minority Whip Eric Cantor and Doug Lamborn, who authored a bill this year to defund NPR's parent company, said in a joint statement Wednesday.

"Make no mistake, it is not the role of government to tell news organizations how to operate. What is avoidable, however, is providing taxpayer funds to news organizations that promote a partisan point of view," they said.

"Eliminating taxpayer funding for NPR is precisely the kind of common sense cut that we have to begin making it we want to fundamentally alter the way business is conducted in Washington," they said.

With Democrats still in charge of the House until the end of the year, the proposal was doomed to fail. Lamborn's legislation to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) , introduced in June, hasn't made it out of committee.

But when Republicans assume power in January, they are expected to go after NPR's federal funding with a vengeance.

NPR says only 1 percent to 3 percent of its $166 million budget is funded by taxpayer dollars. But a new report by the Congressional Research Service found that taxpayers fund at least 4 percent of NPR's budget, while an analyst at the conservative American Thinker estimated it was closer to 25 percent.

Cantor's office has said it will conduct an audit to determine how much taxpayer money NPR is actually getting.

NPR triggered a firestorm last month with the firing of analyst Juan Williams over comments he made during an appearance on Fox News' "O'Reilly Factor. Williams said the sight of individuals dressed in Muslim garb on airplanes made him nervous as he tried to persuade Fox News host Bill O'Reilly that bigotry against Muslims is wrong.

Fox News expanded Williams' role as an analyst after the firing.

YouCut said ending federal funding to NPR could save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and possibly even hundreds of millions. The program noted that NPR receives a significant amount of funding from individuals and organizations through donations and sponsorships.

"Therefore, eliminating taxpayer support should not materially affect NPR's ability to operate while at the same time saving taxpayers millions of dollars annually."