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The House Rules Committee just voted to bar any federal funding from going to NPR.

This is different from past efforts to eliminate all federal funding of public broadcasting, in that this resolution doesn’t save any money. It merely means that the federal agencies that provide grants to NPR can no longer do so. Nor can federal money be used to fund programming. They are free to still give money to public stations and some other entities.

Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), chairman of the Rules Committee, said that the intent of the legislation is to “clearly go on the record on the issue of NPR.” He said that he supports NPR, but that the federal support can be made up through private contributions.

While other Republicans on the committee insisted that the issue was about whether federal tax dollars should go to public broadcasting, it was somewhat frustrating to Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who said that he did not “understand why we are not taking the money and rolling it in to deficit reduction.” House Republicans previously passed a budget bill that eliminates all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) said that the committee was going down a “slippery slope” because it amounts to an attack on NPR content, or deeming what is acceptable for federal funding and what is not. He proposed an amendment that would prohibit the federal government from spending tax dollars to advertise on Fox News, but it was rejected.

The hearing itself was somewhat bizarre, as Republicans went out of their way to praise NPR programming like “Car Talk” and “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” but reiterated that the private sector could make up the gaps in federal support. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) several times pointed out that his favorite show was “Matlock,” the reruns of which are shown on commercial cable channel Hallmark, leading Dreier to point out that the federal government would not be providing any funding for either the show or the channel.

Update: Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), author of the bill, issued this statement after the vote.

“This is an exciting and significant step forward in the ongoing effort to protect taxpayer dollars from supporting programs that are fully capable of standing on their own. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for something that is widely available in the private market.

“I wish only the best for NPR. Like many Americans, I enjoy much of their programming. I believe that they can survive, even thrive, in the free market without the crutch of government subsidies.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is gathering signatures for a petition (and surely a fund-raising appeal) to protest the bill that it calls a “partisan witch hunt.”

Another update: GOP members also are using NPR as a target in fund-raising letters. In Georgia, even though Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss says that eliminating NPR funding is “probably not the wisest thing to do,” Rep. Tom Graves wrote in a fund-raising letter, “I never listen to NPR. As I travel across Georgia, I tune in to hear Glenn Beck or Rush, Hannity or catch the news or just relax to good ole country music. NPR is too snooty for my taste.

“The politically correct drivel that passes for entertainment on NPR doesn’t appeal to me. Plus I’m probably like you and I believe that NPR is rightfully under fire from conservatives for firing Juan Williams for having the audacity to be conservative and appear on NPR’s most hated rival, Fox News.

“Whether NPR is on the air or not wouldn’t matter to me except for this cold hard truth: They’re funded with your tax dollars and mine.”