Bush's first veto will be the most cruel
- Bush's first veto will be the most cruel
Posted by Bob Geiger at 6:16 AM on July 18, 2006.
How devoted is George W. Bush to his patrons in the Religious Right?
No U.S. president since Thomas Jefferson, who left office in 1809, has
gone this far into a presidency without exercising veto power. But
Bush is about to use it on stem cell legislation that is bipartisan to
the almost ludicrous point of the president being out of step with
conservative, anti-choice stalwarts like Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist (R-TN), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Trent Lott (R-MS), who all
support the bill.
The Senate began debate yesterday on H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research
Enhancement Act, which will expand federal funding for embryonic stem
cell research and open the door to enhanced treatment or cures for a
wide array of maladies including cancer, spinal cord injuries,
Parkinson's disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's.
The legislation would mitigate the limits on federal funding of stem
cell research that Bush imposed in 2001.
But a policy statement issued by the White House said that passage of
the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would compel "all American
taxpayers to pay for research that relies on the intentional
destruction of human embryos for the derivation of stem cells. Should
the legislation be presented to the president, he would veto the bill."
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow confirmed that on Monday saying
"the administration has released a statement of administration policy
expressing a veto threat about H.R. 810, the stem cell bill, that has
been cleared and published We've got a formal veto threat out for it
in the form of a statement of administration policy."
"It's tragic. For six years, President Bush has refused to veto a
single bill. But now he's threatening to issue his first -- ever -- on
stem cell research," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in
a speech Monday to the 97th annual NAACP convention. "He didn't veto
Republican budgets that cut from the neediest among us and plunged our
country hundreds of billions of dollars into debt. He didn't veto tax
breaks for Enron and Exxon, while hardworking families paid more for
gas just to get to work or pick up their kids from school. But now,
he's going to veto a bill that offers hope to millions of Americans
suffering from cancer, or chronic and other debilitating conditions,
such as diabetes, Lou Gehrig's, or sickle cell anemia."
A vote on H.R. 810 could happen as early as today and it is expected
to pass with broad bipartisan support. It's possible it will hit
Bush's desk for the expected veto as early as Wednesday and it is
highly likely that Congress will fail to override it. While it's very
possible that the 67 votes needed to override Bush's veto could be
mustered in the Senate, the House is unlikely to rebuke Bush. The bill
passed the House in 2005 by a vote of 238-194 and 290 votes would be
needed to override Bush's veto.
What is astounding is that in a 109th Congress marked by a bitter
partisan divide, Bush will be vetoing a bill that has brought even the
most ideologically-split foes together.
"Science has progressed over the last five years," said Frist in
support of H.R. 810 on Monday. "Fewer than the anticipated number of
cell lines have proved suitable for research, and I feel that the
limit on cell lines available for federally funded research is too
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) made an unusually personal speech in the
Senate chamber on Monday when he broached the subject of his own
battle with Hodgkin's disease and mentioned a 1970 call by President
Richard Nixon to strengthen and expand cancer research.
"Without unduly dwelling on my own situation with Hodgkin's -- a year
of chemotherapy -- I think had that research been fulfilled, I would
have been spared that malady," said Specter, who also commented on the
untold number of people who have died of diseases "which could be
cured with stem cell research."
Ted Kennedy (D-MA) even invoked the Bible in his plea to Bush to
support the life-saving research when it reaches his desk.
"Hope is what stem cell research brings to millions of Americans who
seek better treatments and better drugs for cancer, diabetes, spinal
injury, and many other serious conditions," said Kennedy. "Hope cannot
be extinguished or destroyed, but it can be delayed. In the Bible, the
Book of Proverbs tells us, 'Hope deferred makes the heart sick.' And
today hearts are sick almost to the breaking point, because for the
past five the Bush Administration has shut down the stem cell research
program begun at National Institute of Health, and imposed arbitrary
restrictions on this life-saving research."
All of this will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears when dealing with a man
like Bush, who presided over so many executions while Governor of
Texas and yet takes a firm stance on life when it deals with clumps of
cells invisible to the naked eye and used less than a week after
And there is no shortage of viable cells, with more than 400,000 ready
for research at fertility clinics across the country.
Which makes one of the other three bills to be considered this week,
Rick Santorum's (R-PA) Fetus Farming Prohibition Act -- which he
authored along with his Opus Dei buddy, Sam Brownback (R-KS) -- even
more bizarre. The bill would make it a crime to use stem cells (or any
other tissue) if the material comes from a pregnancy initiated and
terminated specifically to produce tissue.
Brownback quoted Christian writer C.S. Lewis in arguing that the
procedure is an affront to human dignity: "If man chooses to treat
himself as raw material, raw material he will be."
Of course, with 400,000 frozen embryos waiting in the wings, this
isn't a realistic issue to even be addressing and, like Bush's
promised veto, it is only being proposed to appease their far-right
That bill and Specter's Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies
Enhancement Act -- which simply encourages scientists to search for
ways to derive all-purpose stem cells from sources other than embryos
-- are also expected to pass the Senate if for no other reason than
that they are not very controversial. In addition, not one of the 55
Senate Republicans would dare vote against them.
But the stem-cell news this week will be ruled by Bush and, given that
he has been promising this veto for five years, there's very little
chance that his pen won't be used to squash the hopes of many people
who have waited for this moment.
"There are so many people who will be watching, who will be hoping,
who will be praying that he signs this legislation," said Dianne
Said Ted Kennedy in his arguments on the Senate floor Monday: "We must
cast a vote of conscience and of courage. We must reaffirm that our
common value of bringing hope to those who need it outweighs any
single ideology, we must approve the Stem Cell Research Enhancement
Act, and we must call upon the President of the United States not to