By Andrew Taylor
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Public broadcasters turned back an effort to slash their federal subsidies by $100 million, but scores of education, labor and health programs still face cuts in the House.
The 284-140 vote Thursday to reverse a 25 percent proposed cut demonstrated the enduring political strength of public broadcasting, whose supporters rallied behind popular programs such as "Sesame Street," "Postcards From Buster" and "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer."
The Public Broadcasting Service undertook a high-profile campaign to rescind the proposed cut. Lawmakers were flooded with letters and phone calls.
The vote came as the House worked on a $142.5 billion spending bill for health, education and labor programs for the budget year beginning Oct. 1. The House was expected to pass the bill Friday.
The overall spending bill would cut numerous programs. For example, President Bush's signature No Child Left Behind education initiative would be reduced by $806 million _ more than 3 percent.
Republicans said they had done they best they could under Bush's tight budget for domestic programs.
The bill essentially would freeze current spending levels, but new demands have forced cuts in programs for job training, rural health care, low-income schools and people lacking health insurance.
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the number two House Democrat said the bill is proof that the "Republican Party's misguided and irresponsible tax and budget policies have real consequences for real, live Americans."
But it was only the cuts in public broadcasting that Democrats, with the votes of 87 Republicans, managed to reverse.
The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee had cut $100 million from $400 million in previously enacted support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The committee also eliminated subsidies for educational programs and technological upgrades.
The corporation was created by Congress in 1967 to shield public broadcasting from political influence. It distributes federal subsidies to PBS, National Public Radio and hundreds of public radio and television stations.
CPB Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson made news recently with his contention that public broadcasting is too liberal.
Also Thursday, the corporation's board selected Patricia S. Harrison, a former Republican Party co-chairman, as president and chief executive.
Republicans who favored the cuts said federal subsidies provide only about 15 percent of the public broadcasting budget. The rest, they said, comes from private and corporate donors, as well as licensing and royalties from programming. The $100 million cut would amount to only about 4 percent of all spending on public broadcasting, they said.
"Big Bird and his friends can fly on their own," said Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla.
PBS still might end up with less money than in its current budget. The legislation would eliminate $23 million for the Ready to Learn program, which subsidizes children's educational programming and distributes learning materials.
Public broadcasting advocates say $82 million is set to be cut from satellite upgrades and a program to help public TV stations switch to digital technology.