Not that anyone should find this surprising, at least to hear Mitch McConnell tell the story. He has voted consistently to remove federal funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and won’t have any trouble doing it again:
In the wake of the firing of former National Public Radio news analyst Juan Williams over public comments made about Muslims, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would support a bill that ends federal funding for public broadcasting media outlets.
“I’ve voted to cut their funding in the past, and will again,” McConnell said in a statement. “With trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see, I think the federal government ought to be re-examining all of its expenditures to make sure we are focused on creating an environment where the economy can return to health and can begin creating sustainable private-sector jobs.”
McConnell joins a growing chorus of Republican leaders in both chambers, including House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who say they will consider ending federal subsidies for the networks. National Public Radio receives about two percent of its funding from grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts and relies heavily on dues from local member stations, which are largely taxpayer-funded.
McConnell frames this the proper way. The real issue with funding the CPB and NPR with tax dollars has nothing to do with Juan Williams. It has everything to do with the fact that we don’t have the money to waste on non-essentials, and that government has no business subsidizing broadcasters in a robust market with hundreds of choices for consumers.
Skepticism is understandable in this case, though. Republicans had plenty of opportunity to cut NPR and CPB loose from 2001 to 2006, while McConnell himself helped run the Senate [see update], and failed to do it. They failed to cut a lot of spending in those days, and this would have been the easiest to trim.
I agree with Allahpundit and Andy McCarthy that the question of CPB/NPR funding is a canary in the coal mine for whether Republicans have the nerve to defund ObamaCare, but it’s more than that. The GOP will have to find a way to cut spending by nearly 40% to return to FY2007 levels (which were too high) even apart from ObamaCare. If they can’t pull the trigger on CPB and NPR, don’t expect them to deliver on much else.
Update: Bill Frist was Senate Majority Leader for most of the time between 2001-6; McConnell was Majority Whip. Frist therefore “ran the Senate,” but McConnell was certainly part of that leadership. Thanks to Jefferson P for the correction.