ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Today George W. Bush did something he's never done as President - he vetoed a bill. The legislation would have eased restrictions on the federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. It also would have expanded the cell lines that could be studied using government dollars. President Bush imposed the restrictions in 2001.
NPR's David Greene reports the president said he will continue to support those restrictions.
DAVID GREENE reporting:
In an East Room ceremony today, Mr. Bush said he couldn't accept a bill that would underwrite research using new lines of embryonic stem cells, even though that research might find cures for diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other illnesses. He and many conservatives say that however medically promising, this research destroys embryos that have the potential for human life.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: If this bill would have become law, American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos - and I'm not going to allow it.
(Soundbite of applause)
GREENE: On a riser behind the president were people who call themselves snowflake families. They've adopted frozen embryos that would have been discarded in fertility clinics, using the embryos to have children, some of whom chimed in behind the president.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Each of these children was adopted while still an embryo and has been blessed with a chance to grow, to grow up in a loving family. These boys and girls are not spare parts.
GREENE: The president's Republican allies had meant to send him another bill to sign at the same time, a bill encouraging research into alternative sources of stem cells not involving embryos. But while approved in the Senate, that bill did not clear the House in time for today's event. Instead the president got a bill to ban so called fetal farming, the idea that embryos might be developed to fetal stage and harvested for research. No one opposed that bill in either the House or Senate.
But national attention has been focused on the funding of stem cell research, and on that issue the president finds himself at odds with the Democrats and a substantial fraction of the Republicans in Congress. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California was quick to point to the polls.
Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California): In vetoing the legislation, the president will be saying no to 75 percent of the American people. He will be saying no to so many families across America who are hoping and praying that this legislation becomes a public policy. He will be saying no to hope.
GREENE: Republicans urging the president not to veto the bill included former first lady Nancy Regan, whose husband died of Alzheimer's disease. She's been a promonate advocate of stem cell research. Also backing the bill was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a physician who had originally supported the president's stand back in 2001.
Mr. Bush said he would allow funding for research on stem cell lines available at that time, but not on new ones. Since then however, the pre-existing stem cell lines have been disappointing and researchers want access to new lines of stem cells from embryos in fertility clinics that are otherwise routinely discarded.
A president's veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of each chamber of Congress, but House passage fell 50 votes short of that. By casting his veto Mr. Bush made sure he would not join Thomas Jefferson as the only two term president not to use the veto pen. Catherine Dunn Tempest is a presidential scholar at the University of Pennsylvania who says the lack of vetoes used to be about a Republican Party determined to stick together.
Ms. CATHERINE DUNN TEMPEST (University of Pennsylvania): I think there was a remarkable confluence of events in the first five years that had to do with the president's own personality, his desire for control and for party unity that made it more willing to work with the Congress, and made the Congress more willing to work with the president.
GREENE: This year's election politics are different, Tempest said, because with this veto, Mr. Bush can both salute his core supporters and give other Republicans a chance to show their own independence.
David Greene, NPR News, the White House.
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