GOP Targets Big Bird Again

Lawmakers argue funds are an 'enormous sum of money'

When it comes to defunding public broadcasting, the GOP is like a dog with a bone. Renewing the fight to take public broadcasting off the list of federal appropriations, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Co.) are trolling for lawmakers to sign a letter calling for the Senate and House Appropriation Committees to discontinue funds.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is requesting $445 million for fiscal year 2015. The appropriations bill for fiscal year 2013 is not completed.

Last year, Big Bird and company, backed by Democrats, managed to keep government funds. But with the win came the instruction that the CPB report to Congress by June 20 about alternative sources of funding.
Now, on the eve of a highly charged partisan election season, GOP members are taking aim again. 

"This is an enormous sum of money, especially considering that President Obama's 2010 bipartisan deficit reduction commission recommended funding for the CPB be eliminated completely," DeMint wrote in the letter that he is circulating for signatures. "Public media outlets are thriving," he added.

Since DeMint began circulating the letter, Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have signed.

Democrats are likely to rally to support behind public broadcasting as they have every time the fight has hit the Hill.

Public interest groups are already jumping to the CPB's defense. "Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which amounts to a fraction of 1 percent of the overall U.S. budget, is money well spent. Members of Congress who consider this an 'enormous' expense need to spend more time with the Count on Sesame Street," said Josh Stearns, Free Press' public media and journalism campaign director.

Adding a new wrinkle to the debate is the recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which could make it a little more difficult for the CPB to argue that it needs federal funds to survive. The Ninth Circuit rules that the federal ban on political advertising on public stations is unconstitutional. If the decision is upheld, it could open up a whole new source of revenue for public broadcasters.