The Scientific Activist

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.


  1. #1 Abel Pharmboy
    July 12, 2006

    Superb analysis – any comment yet from any members of the Reagan family?

  2. #2 Nick Anthis
    July 12, 2006

    I haven’t seen any anything from them since the latest developments. However, Michael Reagan, the one Reagan who has been outspoken against embryonic stem cell research, had an opinion piece published Tuesday on the issue (although not related to the veto).

  3. #3 hans
    July 12, 2006

    I see it as a good thing. Stem cell research ouside of US will become more dominant and soon the nations supporting this research will start to reap its benefits. Perhaps then it will dawn on the Americans what is happening to their country.

  4. #4 Nick Anthis
    July 12, 2006

    Although it’s important for Americans to learn these things, that would be a pretty severe wakeup call. True, other nations will (and already have begun to) benefit from the lack of support of embryonic stem cell research in America, but the fact of the matter is that the US has such extensive scientific resources that it would be tragic to not devote some of them to an area of such scientific, and eventually clinical, significance.

  5. #5 Mike the Mad Biologist
    July 12, 2006

    I’m surprised he’s not using signing statements to weasel out of this; I think he’s just trying to rally the Republican base (and hope for low voter turnout in 2006).

  6. #6 Nick Anthis
    July 12, 2006

    It looks like he’s actually put himself in a pretty tough situation here, and I can’t see how this will help the Republicans in the upcoming elections.

  7. #7 Terri
    July 12, 2006

    I just want him to get some neurodegenerative disease. NOW.

  8. #8 Pharma Bawd
    July 13, 2006

    Can you guys put one of these ads for on your blogs?

    I think it might be a good idea to start campaigning for a veto override right now. Bush’s poll numbers are so weak even the Republicans in the House and Senate are going to want to distance themselves from him before the election.

    Overriding his first and only veto would seem to create about as much distance between onesself and the President as anyone could want. It would also insulate say Frist, and the others from charges of being over the top with Terri Schiavo fiasco.

  9. #9 suzyf921
    July 13, 2006

    Hans has a point – we are after all the country where it’s become *optional* to teach evolution in public schools. However it will take many years — even a generation — to recover from our current position as “laughingstock of the scientific world.”

  10. #10 Tom Sullivan
    July 14, 2006

    Embryonic research is a waste of money. There are 60 to 80 adult stem cell actual medical treatments. There are zero embryonic treatments. That’s because embryonic cells will always cause tissue rejection. And its not for lack of money or trying. The liberal scientists would LOVE to find a single treatment which works, but they cannot. So far all they’ve produced is fraud and failure, despite enormous investment and effort.

    Embryonic reseach is a political issue, designed to discredit Bush and Republicans. The liberal proponents make rash promises about curing eveyone of everything, but they cannot find a single treatment. It is diverting money from the useful adult cell fields. It is a proxy for the pro-abortion stance of liberals, so they do not mind wasting money on it, thus harming patients.

    But that’s what liberals do best – waste money and tell lies about Republicans. They have no actual solutions to anything, especially with embryonic research.

  11. #11 gwangung
    July 14, 2006

    Embryonic research is a waste of money. There are 60 to 80 adult stem cell actual medical treatments. There are zero embryonic treatments. That’s because embryonic cells will always cause tissue rejection.

    Ah, Miss COulter has shown up.

  12. #12 Nick Anthis
    July 16, 2006

    Tom, that’s completely untrue. I’d love to see a list of all of those adult stem cell treatments. Either way, you clearly don’t understand how the scientific process works.

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