Stem Cell Bill Vetoed
President Bush on Wednesday as expected vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (HR 810), which would have expanded federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, the Boston Globe reports (Klein, Boston Globe, 7/20). Shortly after the veto, the first in Bush's presidency, the House voted 235-193 to try to override the veto but was 51 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 7/20).
Bush on Aug. 9, 2001, announced a policy that allows federal funding for embryonic stem cell research only when it uses stem cell lines created on or before that date. The bill would have allowed funding for research using stem cells derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients (California Healthline, 7/19).
Bush during a White House ceremony said, "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it." He added, "If this bill would have become law, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos. And I'm not going to allow it" (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/20).
About 200 supporters of Bush's decision to veto the bill were in attendance during his remarks (Benedetto/Stone, USA Today, 7/20). Twenty-three children who were born as the result of embryos "adopted" from fertility clinics were present in the audience, according to the Denver Post (Mulkern/Soraghan, Denver Post, 7/20).
Fifty-one Republicans, 183 Democrats and one independent in the House voted to override Bush's veto, while 179 Republicans and four Democrats voted to sustain the veto (Stolberg, New York Times, 7/20). Three House members changed their vote from the 238-194 vote the chamber took to pass the bill last year, CQ Today reports.
Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) voted against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act last year but voted to override Bush's veto on Wednesday.
Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) voted for the measure last year but voted to sustain the veto.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-sponsor of the legislation, said she has "no doubt that in 30 months when we have a new president," Bush's 2001 executive order on embryonic stem cell research will be changed (Ferrechio/Crowley, CQ Today, 7/19). She added that she aims this year to attach provisions of the bill to appropriations measures (Sprengelmeyer, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 7/20).
Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), co-sponsor of the bill, and other lawmakers also are looking at attaching the bill to other measures or bringing it up next year. "I'm energized by this, not quieted," Castle said, adding, "You're going to have embryonic stem cell research funded by the United States government" (Brooks, Wilmington News Journal, 7/20).
According to the Wall Street Journal, Democrats said they plan to bring up stem cell research in campaigns for the November election, including in Missouri, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where incumbent Republicans voted against the measure (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 7/20).
Bush's veto will not affect state funding for stem cell research under Proposition 71, but the veto nonetheless will have "direct and indirect" implications for stem cell research in California, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Jacobs, San Jose Mercury News, 7/20). California voters approved Proposition 71 in 2004 to provide up to $300 million annually for a decade to fund stem cell research (California Healthline, 7/19).
According to the Mercury News, current federal limits on stem cell funding require researchers to use facilities that do not receive federal funding for any research that involves stem cell lines other than those eligible for federal funding. Researchers have voiced concerns that such requirements prevent researchers from using facilities that already exist, leading to the duplication of laboratories and equipment.
In addition, the Mercury News reports that federal limits bar stem cell researchers who receive federal funding from "pool[ing] their data and findings" with researchers working on stem cell lines ineligible for federal funds (San Jose Mercury News, 7/20).
KQED's "Forum With Michael Krasny" on Thursday in the first hour of the program will feature a discussion of the implications of the president's veto for California. Panelists include:
- Robert Klein -- chair of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, which oversees the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine;
- Arnold Kriegstein, director of the University of California-San Francisco's Center for Regenerative Medicine;
- Jesse Reynolds, director of the Project on Biotechnology Accountability at the Center for Genetics and Society; and
- Marc Sandalow, the San Francisco Chronicle's Washington bureau chief (Krasny, "Forum," KQED, 7/20).
Bush on Wednesday signed into law a bill (S 3504) that would make it illegal to conduct research on embryos from "fetal farms," the Washington Post reports (Babington, Washington Post, 7/20). In fetal farms, human embryos could be made in a nonhuman uterus or from human pregnancies that were created specifically for the purpose of research (California Healthline, 7/19).
"This good law prohibits one of the most egregious abuses in biomedical research, the trafficking in human fetuses that are created with the sole intent of aborting them to harvest their parts," Bush said, adding, "Human beings are not a raw material to be exploited, or a commodity to be bought or sold, and this bill will help ensure that we respect the fundamental ethical line."
Bush said he was "disappointed" that the House has not yet approved a Senate-passed bill (S 2754) NIH to research and fund methods of creating embryonic stem cell lines without destroying human embryos (White House release, 7/19).
The bill also contains a rule that the measure would not affect any regulations regarding embryonic stem cells, human cloning or any other research methods that currently are prohibited and calls for research on adult stem cells. The House on Tuesday -- shortly after the bill was approved by the Senate -- voted 273-154 to approve the measure, which was not enough to pass the House under suspended House rules (California Healthline, 7/19).
Castle said the bill was "wholly unnecessary, an obvious politically structured bill created to allow people who oppose (the embryonic stem cell bill) to say that they support stem cell research" (Wilmington News Journal, 7/20).
Speaking at the Commonwealth Club on Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said it is "very important that we move forward with ... stem cell research and not go backwards." Schwarzenegger said he is "so glad California is a leader and we will keep pushing, whatever it takes to make sure we are the leaders in stem cell research" (Office of the Governor release, 7/19).
Several broadcast programs reported on Bush's veto of the stem cell legislation.
- ABC's "World News Tonight": The segment includes comments from actor and stem cell research advocate Michael J. Fox and Degette (Tapper, "World News Tonight," 7/19). The complete video of the segment is available online.
- CBS's "Evening News": The segment includes comments from Harvard Stem Cell Institute researcher George Daley and Frist (Borger, "Evening News," CBS, 7/19). The complete segment is available online.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment examines Bush's stem cell legislation veto (Gregory, "Nightly News," 7/19). The complete segment is available online.
- WBUR's "Here and Now": The segment includes comments from Boston Globe congressional correspondent Rick Klein ("Here and Now," 7/19). The complete segment is available online.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and presidential scholar at the University of Pennsylvania (Greene, "All Things Considered," NPR, 7/19). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media Player.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The related segments are opposing commentaries from essayist Terry Smith and Joe Carter, director of communications for the Center from Bioethics and Human Dignity ("All Things Considered," 7/19). Carter's commentary is available online. Smith's commentary is available online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.) (Rover, "Morning Edition," 7/20). The segment is available online.
- PBS's "NewsHour": The segment includes comments from Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Frist, Harkin, Michael Franc, vice-president of the Heritage Foundation, and Tenpas (Ifill, "NewsHour," 7/19). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- PBS's "News Hour": The segment includes comments from NewsHour health correspondent Susan Dentzer (Lehrer, "NewsHour," 7/19). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.