Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn said that, in leading the charge to strip National Public Radio of taxpayer support, he is aiming simply to “let loose” the station to thrive in the free market. In a round of interviews Thursday held just before and after the House voted along party lines to pass his “defund NPR” bill, he said he was not acting out of partisan motives.
“NPR can survive on its own. It has quality programming and I know that in the free market, should they decide to do that with a new business model, they could survive and even thrive,” Lamborn told CBS. “So let’s let them loose from taxpayer subsidies.”
Lamborn has introduced several bills targeting public broadcasting over the last two years. He has said he’s merely seeking to cut back on spending and he repeated that refrain yesterday to interviewers at CBS and Fox, who questioned whether the bill was just partisan maneuvering and whether it had any chance of moving beyond the Republican-controlled House.
“Do you think it is going to get a vote in the Senate?” asked Fox host Greta Van Susteren.
“Two-thirds of the Senate did not face the voters in the last election and they have not seen, I don’t think, the righteous anger of the American people. We in the House all got it. We faced the vote. We came through the other side. They don’t understand this is a serious matter, spending in general. This is one of a bunch of things,” Lamborn said.
“Is this a political vendetta or spending issue?” Van Susteren asked.
“This to me is a spending issue,” said Lamborn.
Although he has been less coy in the past about the fact that he thinks NPR is “a friend and protector of liberal issues and political correctness at the expense of free speech and balanced news reporting,” he expanded on the fiscal discipline motives guiding the bill for CBS, arguing that the American people believe that NPR doesn’t need the funding.
“I can’t predict what the Senate will do. If they want to take ownership of continuing to fund things that have outlived their usefulness, and in this day and age, if they want to keep spending money on things that the American people think do not need the funding if we’re gonna get our spending under control, they can make that choice. I think it’s a mistake and I think voters will remember that, but [senators] have that right.”
Surveys suggest a majority of Americans support federal funding for NPR. Supporters point to the popularity of the network and the vital role it plays in the increasingly partisan advertising-driven corporate media environment.
Critics of Lamborn’s bill point out the fact that the bill cuts nothing from the federal budget. As the bill stands, it won’t save taxpayers a dime. Lamborn concedes that fact but said that it would cut roughly $64 million when teamed with an appropriations bill.
Fans of NPR and Democrats in Congress said that amount of money is crucial to NPR and its rural affiliates but means very little in the enormous federal government’s budget. More meaningful substantial cuts should be made elsewhere, they said.
Lamborn, whose district houses military bases, has repeatedly voted for outsize defense spending. His earmark votes alone over the last three years for defense projects amount to well more than half of the $64 million he says taxpayers would save by defunding NPR. He also voted to spend $485 million last year on the Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine program, which the Department of Defense, Pentagon leaders and Presidents Bush and Obama have tried to end as overly expensive and redundant.
ABC News called the engine program a “$3 billion government boondoggle” and government-spending watchdogs have railed against the project as one of the biggest pork projects of the last fifty years. Yet Lamborn told the Colorado Independent he was committed to the project. He said paying for the alternate engine project ramps up competition among Pentagon contractors, ensuring a better product. He said a crucial defense project meant to keep the nation safe can’t be compared to broadcast funding at a time when Americans are saturated in media.
“We have to be serious about making spending decisions,” Lamborn told CBS about the NPR bill. “We have to start somewhere. To reach one and a half trillion dollars, there’s no one program that’s going to do that. It’s going to be a combination of many steps. So we have to take a lot of steps to get to the goal of getting our spending under control.”