19 Jul Bush vetoes stem cell research bill
Washington, D.C. – Calling the destruction of human embryos a line that society should not cross, President Bush has vetoed a bill that would have overturned his ban on new federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, and an override attempt failed in the House of Representatives.
“It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it,” Bush said in announcing the veto, the first of his presidency.
The measure, known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act or House Resolution 810, has been enacted by both houses of Congress. The bill would have permitted the National Institutes of Health to fund embryonic stem cell research, regardless of where the stem cells are derived, essentially removing restrictions announced by Bush in August of 2001.
H.R. 810 would limit human embryonic stem cell research to stem cells derived from unused human embryos donated from in-vitro fertilization clinics, surplus embryos that now are discarded. Researchers would like to use embryonic stem cells because they can become almost any cell in the human body, and perhaps lead to better treatments or cures for life-threatening and debilitating diseases.
Neither the House of Representatives nor the United States Senate passed the measure with enough votes to override a veto, but backers were hoping that an override vote taken during an election year will pressure opponents to reconsider. Those hopes were dashed when the House voted 235 to 193 to override, falling 50 votes short of the required two-thirds majority.
Congressman Mark Green, Doyle’s opponent in the 2006 gubernatorial election, voted to uphold the veto. Green had voted against H.R. 810 last year.
Doyle blasts veto
Following the veto, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle held a conference call with state reporters. Doyle said he looked forward to the day when there will be a different president who would support additional federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.
Doyle, appearing with Custer, Wis. resident Pam Fleishauer, whose son has diabetes, also said he doesn’t understand why anyone would choose a few cells that are “no bigger than the head of a pin” over a four-year-old child suffering from diabetes – especially when those cells otherwise would be discarded.
“We have to hope we have a different president, shortly, who sees this issue a little differently,” Doyle said.
Green has touted his support of adult stem cell research, nothing that it has produced nearly 70 clinical applications, but Doyle said none of the scientists he’s spoken to believes that adult stem cell research holds more promise than human embryonic stem cell research.
The governor acknowledged the role adult stem cells have played in medical discovery, but added, “They are certainly no replacement for embryonic stems cells.”
Bush said the existing stem cell policy strikes a balance between the needs of science and the demands of conscious, but opponents were quick to argue that the Bush Administration now is the only thing that stands in the way of more robust funding for this type of research. Under the president’s guidelines, private funding is permitted, but federal funding is restricted to existing embryonic stem cell lines.
The president’s backers, including organizations like Pro Life Wisconsin, applauded the veto. They oppose embryonic stem cell research because in the process of deriving the stem cells, the embryo is destroyed.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Matt Sande, the organization’s legislative affairs director. “President Bush stood tall today in the preservation of human life.”
Earlier, Sande had blasted Wisconsin Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, who voted for H.R. 810.
In the House vote, the Wisconsin delegation was split along partisan lines. Voting to override the veto were Democrats Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, and David Obey. Joining Green in voting to uphold the veto were Republicans Tom Petri, Paul Ryan, and Jim Sensenbrenner.
• Senate approves bill to expand stem cell funding
• Doyle wants Wis. to capture 10 percent of stem-cell market
• Tom Still: Stem cell breakthrough by UW shows why federal research should be broadened
• Embryonic stem cells advance diabetes cure
• National stem-cell panel, including UW profs, urges close watch on research