Indeed, the vote was symbolic. Had Republicans really wanted to cut NPR they would have waited until January, when they will have the majority and will be able to get partisan legislation passed. Instead, GOP leaders determined that it would be better to throw some early red meat to their most conservative constituents, force Democrats to side with spending taxpayer money on the "liberal media," and avoid an early partisan fight that would paint Republicans as more interested in revenging a Fox New employee than in doing the public's business.
(Note: I am a producer at an NPR-affiliated station, KCRW, though I don't work for NPR.)
*Update: And speaking of Fox News, chairman Roger Ailes compared NPR executives to Nazis because the firing of Juan Williams brought the Holocaust to mind. Ailes later apologized, saying he was "angry" and chose the wrong word.
Here's his angry ad-lib:
“They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.”