Bush Reiterates Threat To Veto Stem Cell Research Legislation
President Bush on Tuesday restated his intention to veto a bill (HR 810/S 471) that would expand federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research despite Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-Tenn.) recent endorsement of the measure, the Des Moines Register reports (Norman, Des Moines Register, 8/3).
During a roundtable interview with reporters from eight regional newspapers from across the country, Bush said, "I am confident that I have achieved the right balance between science and ethics," adding that although Congress has "the prerogative to pass laws," he has "the prerogative to set limits on what [he] think[s] is right" (Lightman, Hartford Courant, 8/3). Bush's current policy allows federal funding for embryonic stem cell research only when conducted using stem cell lines created on or before Aug. 9, 2001.
The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 -- which has been approved by the House but has stalled in the Senate -- also would allow funding for research using stem cells derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients. Frist, who is a medical doctor and previously supported Bush's embryonic stem cell research policy, on Friday said, "We should expand federal funding ... and current guidelines governing stem cell research, carefully and thoughtfully staying within ethical bounds" (California Healthline, 8/1).
Bush on Tuesday said, "There are ethical dilemmas when it comes to science, and I think it's very important for a government to recognize those ethical dilemmas. The dilemma I was faced with was, 'Do I allow the destruction of life in order to advance science?'" (Des Moines Register, 8/3). He added that embryonic stem cell research is relatively new and only one of several potential methods of curing diseases and said his embryonic stem cell policy does not disallow private and state financing of such research. "My hope is that the stem cell lines we have available will help advance science," Bush said, adding, "I fully understand the anguish people have" (Lieberman, Newhouse/New Orleans Times-Picayune, 8/3).
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who is a sponsor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, said there is much public support to allow the use of about 400,000 embryos that have been created during in vitro fertilization procedures for stem cell research because the embryos otherwise would be discarded. "I respect the president, but my sense is that we can use research on stem cells consistent with ethics," Specter said, adding, "The alternative is either using them or throwing them away" (Lieberman, Harrisburg Patriot-News, 8/3).
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who has drafted legislation that would allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research conducted using stem cell lines created in 2005 or earlier, said that while he respects Bush's veto threat, he "believe[s] we need to find common ground on this very important and sensitive issue." Coleman added, "I'm trying to put together a bill that will be veto-proof, and we're not there yet" (Diaz, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/3). Two-thirds of the members of both chambers of Congress are needed to override a presidential veto (California Healthline, 8/1).