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Democrats Tap Big Bird to Help Save Public Broadcasting Funding

Congressmen will appear with PBS characters in bid to stop GOP efforts to slash federal support

Big Bird goes to Washington?

House Republicans are proposing deep cuts to public broadcasting, but Congressional Democrats are planning to counter the belt-tightening. And they're employing some costumed characters to help them. 

A handful of Democrats led by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) plan to hold a press conference on Wednesday to announce an amendment that would restore funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the appropriations bill.

Citing concerns about the burgeoning federal debt, Republicans are planning to cut all federal funding from the CPB. 

Under the plan some $6 million would also be cut from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Markey and the half-dozen other House Democrats will be joined by characters from public television shows. Dusting off Elmo and Cookie Monster to protest budget cuts has been employed in past budget battles. Witness the video of Fred Rogers (a.k.a. Mr. Rogers) testifying before the U.S. Senate when then President Richard Nixon wanted to slash the $20 million CPB endowment to help pay for the Vietnam War.  

Public broadcasting has long been a bête noire for Republicans, who claim that stations such as NPR and PBS have a left-wing bias. Plans to take an ax to funding have inspired an online campaign from public broadcasting defenders. 

For its part, President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget would not only restore CPB funding, it would actually increase it. Under the President's budget, the group would receive $451 million in funding, an increase of $6 million from the previous year.

The CPB has requested $608 million for its next funding cycle, which begins in 2013. Funding from the CPB accounts on average for 15 percent of funding for the more than 1,100 public radio and television stations around the country.

The conference will be held Wednesday at 11.15 in front of the Capitol.