July 13, 2005

STEM CELL UPDATE: People wondering why Arlen Specter has been less-than-helpful to the Bush Administration on judicial matters may want to note Specter’s anger over the Administration’s stem-cell policy:

The President’s Council on Bioethics laid out several options in a white paper in May.

Bioethicists and scientists testified Tuesday regarding the theories outlined in the white paper before the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. Arlen Specter, (R-Pennsylvania), who is suffering from cancer and authored a competing bill, chairs the subcommittee.

Specter’s voice was rough from chemotherapy treatments. He said he is angry that stem-cell research is still being delayed by lack of funding.

“I’ve been waiting too long already,” Specter said.

Specter has introduced a bill that would overthrow President Bush’s executive order, which limits federal funding to a small number of human embryonic stem-cell lines. Specter’s bill would open up funding to unused embryos donated by couples after in vitro fertilization. The House has already passed the bill, and the Senate was expected to do the same.

But the president has promised to veto it.

Read the whole thing, which includes discussion of several other bills. There’s also a roundup on the legislative battles in this article in the Los Angeles Times. The Bush Administration’s stem-cell policy has seemed deeply misguided and wrong to me, but it would be ironic if this comparatively minor bow to pro-life politics messed up Bush’s chances to appoint a conservative Supreme Court justice, a far more significant matter.

It’s certainly easy to see why this would make Specter mad:

Some Republicans said the White House goal was to get several of the alternative measures passed, so that even if the embryonic stem cell research bill opposed by the White House were approved, Bush could sign the other measures into law while vetoing the measure that would undermine his policy.

“I think the point is to confuse the issue,” said Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), co-sponsor of the House embryonic stem cell bill.

If I were Specter, it would make me feel uncooperative, too.

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