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Wednesday, 19 July 2006 07:24

Bush's First Veto against Stem Cells is an Outrage that Democrats Must Exploit

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If there was ever any doubt, George Bush has unequivocally established himself as the worst president ever. The first veto of his six-year presidency has struck down a bill passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress to provide federal funding for stem cell research.

Keep in mind, this is the Congress who has come within a few votes of passing absurd constitutional amendments against both flag burning and gay marriage. It's the Congress that has looked the other way at Bush's repeated violations of the law and continues to allow him to do virtually everything he wants, including staying in Iraq without a plan. It's the Congress ruled by archconservatives Frist and Hastert who, with their Republican majority, push around Democrats who too often don't stand up for the right causes. And don't forget about the Terri Schiavo fiasco.

But even this Congress saw the wisdom of the stem cell research bill.

BuzzFlash readers have complained about the need for distinctions between "pro-life," "pro-choice," and "anti-choice" in the abortion debate. After all, everyone is pro-life. Bush has tried to frame stem cells as identical to abortion to appease his religious zealot base, but the truth is that the text of the bill makes this issue an ethical walk in the park. The Act clearly specifies that the embryos must have been originally created for fertilization, "would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded," and are donated with the full consent of their creators without any inducement.

As Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, "I believe that being pro-life involves helping the living."

The second provision of the bill is key. Several embryos are usually created for fertility treatments but some are never used if earlier ones are successfully implanted. Those remaining embryos - microscopic cells or human life, depending on your views - are currently either destroyed, allowed to die, or deep-frozen in liquid nitrogen (which often kills them and rarely results in a future pregnancy).

In vetoing the stem cell research bill today, Bush has declared that his values (and political strategy) are so backward that he would rather embryos go to waste than be used by scientists to try to develop cures for those already and not yet alive. How many people, donors and the sick alike, would gratefully welcome this opportunity?

In finally asserting his strength through the veto, Bush has further dropped his stock among Republicans who have at least an ounce of sense and realize how dangerous Bush's extremism might be to their seats and majorities come November. Nineteen Republicans in the Senate and 50 in the House voted for the bill, including the one who authored it. Even GOP governors, who have nothing to do with the vote, have publicly decried the President.

Neither house has enough votes to override the veto, although the House is expected to try. The inability to overcome Bush's unpopular action will unfortunately only add to his autocratic control as even his cronies on the Hill will not be able to temper him.

Democrats need to press this issue before the elections, even against Republicans who voted for the bill. With control of both houses of Congress up for grabs, Democratic majorities would ensure future votes.

This may be the one wedge issue that Democrats have a clear, decisive advantage on this year. Most people, including many anti-choice conservatives, oppose Bush's position. Virtually everyone knows someone who could be helped with new technology that could be provided by stem cells, and it is almost unimaginable that Bush is leaving them out to dry in the name of his so-called "values."

Stem cell research would be a huge boost to science and offers almost unlimited potential to save human lives. It's also just another issue on which Bush and his ilk are out of step with the American people. Democrats would serve the nation's future and themselves well by ensuring voters remember this veto when they choose the next Congress.

Click here to see the Senate vote

Click here to see the House vote