Congress Can't Override Bush Stem Cell Veto
NOAH ADAMS, host:
This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Noah Adams.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick. The White House says president Bush will issue the first veto of his five and a half years in office today. He's going to say no to a measure that would allow federal financing to create new lines of embryonic stem cells. The Senate passed the bill yesterday, the house more than a year ago an attempt to override the veto could come later today. It is not expected to succeed. NPR's Brian Naylor has details.
BRIAN NAYLOR reporting:
The reality that President Bush was going to veto the stem cell research bill hung over the senate like a cloud, during the two days of debate this week. Even after the bill was approved, 63 to 37, its backers were resigned to the fact that the victory was symbolic. Still, Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter was optimistic about the future.
Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania): My view is that we will have federal funding of embryonic stem cells. It's not a question of if, but a question of when that will be done.
NAYLOR: Embryonic stem cell research is being conducted but at a much slower rate than if the federal government were actively involved and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, another of the bill's supporters, lamented the time lost because of the president's veto.
Senator ORRIN HATCH (Republican, Utah): It sets us back a year or so, until we can finally pass a bill that will have the requisite simple majority to be able to become law. And that sets back embryonic stem cell research another year or so.
NAYLOR: The debate on the measure was a emotional. Many lawmakers cited their personal experience with diseases such as Alzheimer's, Diabetes, and Parkinson's. Diseases that scientists say may some day be treated with the help of embryonic stem cells. Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon cited the death of his cousin, former congressman Morris Udall and other family members from Parkinson's.
Senator GORDON SMITH (Republican, Oregon): To watch people die of such a malady is to instill in one's heart a desire to err on the side of help, hope, and healing. To find a cure if a cure can be found.
NAYLOR: Opponents raised their own moral questions, whether it was proper to destroy a life, even an embryo, in order to save a life. Republican Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania argued it was not a choice lawmakers should be making.
Senator RICK SANTORUM (Republican, Pennsylvania): We're using it for our purpose, we're using it to benefit us. We are using a human life to help those of us who are alive, without the permission of that silent embryo.
NAYLOR: Democrats believe that in stem cells, they found a wedge issue - one that divides Republicans, which Democrats can use to their advantage in this November's mid-term congressional elections. And it may play a role in Santorum's own re-election campaign in Pennsylvania, as well in senate races in Missouri and New Jersey. Republicans believe the political fall out will be minimal. Still, they hope to get this issue behind them as quickly as possible. GOP leaders in the house have scheduled a veto override vote for later today. The veto is expected to be sustained, and Republicans hope that will be the end of the stem cell debate for this year. Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capital.
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