View Full Version : Amash explains his upcoming "present" vote on H R 1076, To Prohibit Federal Funding of NPR

03-17-2011, 10:21 AM
Here's Amash's explanation from his facebook page. If only all our representatives were this thoughtful and mindful of our Constitution:


On Thursday, the House will consider H R 1076, a bill to defund National Public Radio and to prohibit local public broadcast stations from using federal funds to purchase radio content. The federal government does not subsidize NPR directly. Instead, the government funds the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a government entity, which has discretion to provide funding to whichever private radio producers it chooses. H R 1076 does not actually save taxpayer dollars; it merely blocks CPB from exercising its discretion to send funding to NPR. The funds CPB does not send to NPR under the bill are returned to CPB to be spent subsidizing other private radio producers. I offered an amendment in the Rules Committee to require that any funds not sent to NPR be redirected to pay down the deficit, but the amendment was ruled out of order. Therefore, public broadcasting will not see any reduction in federal funding even if this bill becomes law.

The federal government should not subsidize speech. It has no place in picking one viewpoint over another in the marketplace of ideas. Based on those principles, I recently voted in favor of H R 1, which eliminates all federal funding for CPB.

I also believe in the Rule of Law. And as I say often—and as I hope my actions bear true—I take my oath to uphold the Constitution very seriously. Based on those principles, I cannot support H R 1076, and I intend to vote "present" on it.

H R 1076 prohibits federal funding from being used for (1) an organization incorporated for seven particular purposes before the enactment of H R 1076, (2) payment of dues to the aforementioned organization, or (3) the acquisition of radio programming for public broadcast stations.

On its face, H R 1076 seems appropriate. The bill does not appear to reward or punish one particular private entity, and the bill begins to repeal the government's speech subsidies. The first funding prohibition, however, does seem strange. Why would the bill single out organizations with those seven—and only those seven—purposes? Why would the bill specify that the targeted organization had to have all seven of those incorporation purposes? And why would the bill reverse-grandfather in all organizations incorporated after the date of the bill's enactment that have the exact same purposes of incorporation?

The bill was written to target one, and only one, organization: NPR. By no coincidence, the seven incorporation purposes listed in H R 1076 are an exact copy of NPR's incorporation purposes. The bill covers only preexisting corporations, because the bill's intent is to continue funding every other public radio producer that performs the exact same function as NPR. (NPR isn't even the most subsidized of such organizations; Public Radio International, which receives more federal subsidies than NPR, continues to be funded under this bill [click on "Radio Programming"]). Through legislative sleight of hand, H R 1076 attempts to defund NPR without naming NPR.

The bill's treatment of NPR is arguably unconstitutional and definitely violates the Rule of Law. The bill is arguably unconstitutional because it likely is a bill of attainder. Art. I, Sec. 9, of the Constitution prohibits Congress from passing bills of attainder. The idea behind the bill of attainder ban is that Congress shouldn't enact laws meant to punish particular persons or entities, because the proper way to punish a wrongdoer is after the accused has been given a chance to defend himself at trial in a court. After the federal government similarly singled out ACORN, a federal court ruled the defunding was an unconstitutional bill of attainder. A federal appellate court reversed, but on grounds specific to the facts of the case.

Whether or not H R 1076 is a bill of attainder, passing such a bill violates the Rule of Law. I mean by this that government should write laws of general applicability, meant to cure some harm or further some purpose to the general public's benefit. Laws created on a whim to reward or punish a particular person or entity debases our legal system; our laws' purpose changes from advancing the general welfare to moving favors from one special interest to another. Much like I oppose earmarks written to benefit one person or entity, I oppose laws meant to harm one person or entity when another person or entity similarly situated is treated differently.

H R 1076 is aimed at one private entity, NPR. Other private entities that are identical to NPR—except for their names—will continue to receive federal funding. Congress has singled out NPR not for any legitimate, objective reasons—such as, "taxpayers shouldn't subsidize any speech." Instead, the legislation takes aim at one particular private entity because that entity is unpopular.

I want to defund NPR. But I want to do it the right way, in accordance with the Rule of Law. I will continue to vote, as I already have, to defund CPB, the government entity that subsidizes NPR and similar radio producers. As I have stated repeatedly, I will vote "present" on legislation in three circumstances: (1) when I support the legislation's goals, but the legislation uses improper means; (2) when Representatives have not been given a reasonable amount of time to consider the legislation; or (3) when I have a conflict of interest, such as a personal or financial interest in the legislation—a circumstance that hasn't happened yet and I don't anticipate happening. Unfortunately, due to the improper means H R 1076 uses to accomplish its laudable goal, I must vote "present."