House Passes Military Funding Bill

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The House passed a $162 billion dollar military appropriation bill on Thursday. The package pays for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the beginning of the next presidential administration, and includes provisions for increased veteran's benefits, as well as aid for midwest flood victims.

BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, This is the Bryant Park Project.

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MIKE PESCA, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, making pagan bacon. I'm Mike Pesca. It's Friday June 20th, which means the summer solstice is upon us. Bacon ties into that. And of course, if it's June 20th, that also means that I found out some interesting facts about Freddie Mercury.

What? How? Why are you talking about Freddie Mercury? Well, it's one of those six degrees of Internet surfing. Here's how it started. I'm doing a little research on the solstice. The solstice leads to me Stonehenge. Stonehenge leads me to a YouTube clip of Spinal Tap. On the right menu is another Spinal Tap song, "Big Bottom," and that leads me to the song, "Fat Bottomed Girls," by Queen. And Queen leads me to Freddie Mercury.

And I found out that Freddie Mercury, you probably knew this, he was born Farrokh Bulsara. And what I didn't know is that he is Indian Parsi decent, which is an - the Parsis are in western India, right next to where Pakistan is now. He was born in Zanzibar? He grew up in India? Great Freddie Mercury knowledge, all because it is the summer solstice today, in the northern hemisphere, and that means it is the first day of summer.

On the show, we'll have a scientist tell us exactly what the solstice is, how it relates to Freddie Mercury, and then, we'll talk to a pagan who carved a miniature Stonehenge out bacon, french toast sticks and a frittata. Behold, Baconhenge!

We'll also talk about Barack Obama. Yesterday, he became the first major-party presidential candidate to turn to down public financing since the system was created more than 30 years ago. So what does that mean for him and everyone else?

Plus, balloons! You love them. I love them. Everyone loves them, except one unfortunate guest on "The Maury Povich Show."

(Soundbite of TV show "The Maury Povich Show") Mr. MAURY POVICH (Host, "The Maury Povich Show"): You think balloon is going to ultimately be the cause of your death.

Unidentified Woman: I will die...

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PESCA: And, then of course, Maury chased her with balloons, because that's the kind of journalist Maury is. And then Maury yelled to his staffers, no more balloons! And there were more balloons, because that's the kind of guy Maury is. So it turns out, not everyone loves balloons, but we will talk to two women behind a new documentary. In fact, it's called, "Twisted: A Balloonamentary," about the world of balloon twisters. Really cool stuff. We'll get today's headlines in just a minute, but first...

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Representative ZACH WAMP (Republican, Tennessee): We're answering their call today. They answered our call. We meet together to do what is right for our country.

PESCA: Republican Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee got what he was arguing for. The House passed a 162-billion-dollar military-funding bill yesterday. The package pays for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan through the beginning of the next presidential administration, and it includes provisions for increased veterans benefits and aid for Midwest flood victims. But it doesn't contain a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The measure is expected to clear the Senate next week. The House split the legislation into two parts to bring in Democrats who refused to vote for any further war spending. The vote on the domestic spending, including the new GI benefits, and 2.7 billion dollars of assistance to refill disaster-aid accounts in the flood0ravaged Midwest, passed via a 416-to-12 roll-call vote.

The vote on the war money was tighter, passing primarily on GOP votes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined 150 other Democrats in opposing the war funding. The funding bill means compromise. Speaker Pelosi said she would have liked the bill to come with more limits on what could be spent in Iraq.

Speaker of the House NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California): We have no choice. This is not about a failure of this House of Representatives. It's about what we cannot get past the next body and onto the president's desk.

PESCA: The bill doesn't include a timetable for troop withdrawal, which was a sticking point for California Democrat Barbara Lee.

Representative BARBARA LEE (Democrat, California): This is the biggest blank check ever.

PESCA: President Bush is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk. The Bush administration had initially threatened to veto the bill, because of some of its domestic provisions, including the veteran's education benefits. That part of the bill guarantees money for a four-year education to veterans who have served at least three years active duty.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that the college money could hurt troop retention. In the bill, the Democrats agreed to allay that fear by allowing the benefits to transfer to family members as well. You can go to npr.org throughout the day for updates on this story. Now, let's get some more of today's headlines with the BPP's Matt Martinez.

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