Hour Two: House Passes Military Funding Bill

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, feet wash up on the beach. I'm Mike Pesca. It's Friday, June 20th, and yes, there is this case of feet.

Disembodied feet keep washing up on the shores, the western shores, of Canada, and one of the questions that researchers will have to decide is, are the feet flotsam or jetsam? Now, I have to be honest with you; I did not know the difference between flotsam and jetsam. I did know flora and fauna - fauna, animals, flora, plants - but I didn't know - wait. They always say flotsam and jetsam. Are they diff - do they just sound alike? Are they different things?

So, now, I bring in my erstwhile vocabulary opponent, Trish McKinney. If you know the difference between flotsam and jetsam, you score a point on me! Trish, do you know the difference between flotsam and jetsam?

PATRICIA MCKINNEY: I hate you right now.

PESCA: Oh, no!

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MCKINNEY: I hate you. I didn't know you were going to do this to me.

PESCA: But I didn't know, so we're just tied. This doesn't change the official scoring in our vocab quiz.

MCKINNEY: All right. I just asked Manoli and she told me...

PESCA: Yeah. What is it? What is it?

MCKINNEY: Because I had a feeling you were doing this to me.

PESCA: Should have faked it. What is it?

MCKINNEY: So, she says that flotsam is natural and jetsam is manmade.

PESCA: Yeah, essentially, that's right. Flotsam is the stuff that just naturally floats, and jetsam is the stuff thrown overboard, stuff that people throw into the sea. I thought that was interesting.

MCKINNEY: I consider myself flotsam at this moment in time.

PESCA: Wait! Has Manoli pulled past you in our ongoing vocab quiz?

MCKINNEY: Yes. I think we've now established that I'm not as bright as anyone here on the staff. Thank you so much, Mike Pesca.

PESCA: You're not a bronze medalist. Oh, man! I'm just trying to buck you up. It doesn't work. All right, so we will talk about disembodied feet washing up on the shores of Canada. They have found five over 10 months. We'll talk to an oceanographer about how and why this might be happening.

And two former Bear Stearns fund managers were indicted yesterday for their alleged involvement in the mortgage meltdown. NPR's own Tina Temple-Raston will be breaking down the case against these guys for us.

And U.S. Olympic gymnast - gymnastics trials are under way in Philadelphia. We will have a gold medalist, in fact, a multiple-gold medalist, Shannon Miller, on to talk about it. Plus, it's New Movie Friday. We will get reviews of "The Love Guru" and "Get Smart" from our own lovely movie guru, Daniel Holloway. We will have all of today's headlines, 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 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into next year. It also includes provisions for increased veterans' benefits and aid for Midwestern flood victims. But it doesn't contain a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The House split the bill into two parts, so Democrats against the war wouldn't have to vote to fund it. They did vote for the piece with domestic spending, including nearly three billion dollars in disaster assistance for the flood-ravaged Midwest. That part of the bill passed 416 to 12. The vote on the war money was tighter, passing primarily on GOP votes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined 151 other Democrats in opposing the war funding. 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: California Democrat Barbara Lee put it more bluntly.

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

PESCA: The measure is expected to clear the Senate next week. President Bush is expected to sign it. The president had initially threatened to veto the bill because of some of its domestic provisions, including the veterans' 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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