Friday, June 17, 2005

Senate Stem Cell Debate: Coming Soon

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Wednesday that he "hopes" to have a vote on the expansion of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research "within a month," says Reuters. The report adds that Frist did not lay out either a timetable for a vote or what specific bill would be brought to the floor (i.e. the Senate version of H.R. 810, which passed the House by a wide margin last month, or some other proposal).

Reuters notes that Republican Gordon Smith said discussions were ongoing to attempt to hold a vote before the end of June, while Democratic aides said they anticipated action after the July 4 recess. An AP report out today suggests that former first lady and stem cell research advocate Nancy Reagan will soon begin "calling wavering lawmakers" and urge their support for increased federal funding.

One of those "wavering lawmakers" that Nancy Reagan calls may in fact be Senator Frist, who as I've reported, expressed support in 2001 for funding stem cell research on embryos that would be discarded anyway. Since that time, Frist has become a supporter of the limitations President Bush placed on federal funding, but some quotes from the Reuters piece seem to indicate that Frist is leaving himself an opening that might allow him to support the expansion of funding. Reuters: "Frist, a physician, said he agrees with Bush's 2001 limitations on the research but also said, 'It is time, with advancing science, that we review where we are, review not just the president's policy, but where is science today.' Frist said he would not promote research that 'crosses certain ethical guidelines.'"

My question to Senator Frist is this: would those 'certain ethical guidelines' be those you outlined in your "Frist Principles on Human Stem Cell Research" from July 18, 2001? Number 5 of those guidelines reads "Provide Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research Only From Blastocysts That Would Otherwise Be Discarded: Allow federal funding for research using only those embryonic stem cells derived from blastocysts that are left over after in vitro fertilization (IVF) and would otherwise be discarded."

Looks like the door has officially been left open, if only a crack. Adding fuel to the speculation that perhaps Frist will join Senators Hatch, Specter and other Republicans (as well as many Dems) in supporting the Senate equivalent of H.R. 810 is a cryptic line in today's edition of ABC's "The Note". The writers ask "Is it really true that ... one potential 2008 candidates [sic] may surprise folks with his stem cell vote?"

Could they mean anyone but Bill Frist? Time will tell.


At 12:16 PM, Blogger SherAn said...

I wouldn't count on Frist's vote. He has been completed co-opted by the extremist branch of the Religious Right. Remember, they just announced that they plan to hold interviews with all potential presidential candidates for '08 before they give their "blessing" and campaign contributions. Since their support could sway 30-some percent of Republicans to vote for "their" candidate, Frist will not risk alienating them by voting FOR increased funding.

The way he pandered during the Schiavo fiasco should be instructive. Frankly, he's not going to get the nomination; he's simply stepped on his hoo-hoo too many times, but he's in denial and will not risk losing the support they're dangling in front of him.

The extremists like Dobson are essentially using extortion and bribery to advance their agenda. In sixty years I've never seen anything like what's happening in this country. McCarthyism was insidious, but this trend could literally rip this country completely apart.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Jonathan C said...

I agree with Sheran: First has simply invested too much into the RR vote to go against them on one of their key issues.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger ODB said...

in a related story

New Blood Vessels Grown From Older Cells;_ylt=Aoo_qADjqF5JWd9YlO4Voh.s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2bXJyZDI0BHNlYwNobA--

At 1:27 PM, Blogger EG said...

Another way to look at this issue is to ask what would Frist gain by changing at this time? I don't see any political gain and can see much loss in this move.

Political spines aren't all they're cracked up to be.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger JBD said...

You're all quite correct in your comments, I suspect; going back to the position he laid out in 2001 probably isn't in the cards for 2005. But, he's left the door open, so we'll see!


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