Bush’s plans to veto HR 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, after it is likely passed by the Senate sometime this year have generated quite a bit of notice over the last couple of days. If it were allowed to go through, the bill would effectively overturn Bush’s currently standing restrictions that prevent federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Although this latest flurry of attention was sparked by Monday’s report from the Denver Post that Karl Rove has reaffirmed Bush’s veto plans, this is by no means a new finding, since Bush has been threatening this all along, as I mentioned Saturday.
The latest revelation is significant, though, because this is the first direct statement of about the veto since Senator Frist announced that he would stop stalling HR 810 and actually bring it to a vote in the near future. After this commitment, it will be more difficult for the administration to back down, making the future of embryonic stem cell research funding in the US look not too optimistic.
Under the current pact, Republicans only agreed to bring HR 810 to the Senate floor if they could add on two superfluous and distracting, but not particularly harmful, bills. One would require funding of “alternatives” to embryonic stem cell research, and the other would outlaw “fetus farms”. However, if Bush does go through with his promised veto, the whole Republican deal becomes a sham, and will leave us still not funding embryonic stem cell research but now having to fulfill the mandates of these other two completely unnecessary bills.
As I’ve stated many times before, polls show overwhelming public support for embryonic stem cell research, including one from May 2006 that found that 72% of Americans favor “medical research that uses stem cells from human embryos,” and 70% believe the senate should bring H.R. 810 to a vote.
Clearly, President Bush is completely out of touch with the American people on this issue. Period. By vetoing this bill and choosing to obey an extreme ideology over the will of the people, he will be driving a stake further into the heart of American science. Considering his administration’s general hostility toward science, though, this shouldn’t be too surprising.
Although the Bush veto has been getting most of the attention lately, it’s important to note that the push against stem cell research isn’t limited to just the current administration, but is a general Republican Party phenomenon. The Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist managed to delay even bringing HR 810 to a vote for over one year and now that it will finally be voted upon Republicans have managed to weigh it down with meaningless additional legislation. When HR 810 was passed in the house over a year ago, it was only because of the support of Democrats, with 93% of House Democrats voting in favor and 79% of Republicans voting against.
At the end of the day, though, the most outrageous aspect is what has gotten people so riled up over the last day: the fact that President Bush, who has not vetoed a single bill during his two terms in office, plans to use his very first veto here… on stem cell research. This is not only absurd, but a distinct slap in the face to science and the American people.