Monday, July 25, 2005

More Stem Cell Holdups

I wouldn't have thought it possible, but opponents of meaningful stem cell reform have thrown yet another roadblock in front of a vote on Specter-Harkin, Roll Call reports this morning. When sponsors of the real reform bill gave in late last week and accepted Bill Frist's demands for votes on five other alternative pieces of legislation in exchange for a vote on their bill, the path seemed cleared for a debate and vote on the issue.

But not so fast. Now Minnesota's Norm Coleman has leaped into the fray, and is demanding a seventh bill be added to the docket. Roll Call says that there no specific language has been proposed, but that Coleman "wants to make sure that his views on stem-cell research are adequately represented during the debate." The paper also notes that "there is evidence that other, as-yet unnamed religious conservatives may be seeking to delay or block the Senate from voting on the House-passed stem-cell bill, believing that it will get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster."

Talk about moving the goalposts. This is utterly ridiculous. Backers of stem cell research have bent over backwards to accommodate other views, up to and including allowing votes on the extra Frist measures specifically designed to eke support away from Specter-Harkin. Coleman's jumping into the act now is little short of political desperation, just a childish stick stuck in the spokes.

Opponents of the House-passed bill, which would allow federal funding for projects using stem cells taken from embryos that would otherwise be discarded, are so afraid of allowing it to pass that they will resort to every trick in the book to keep it off the floor. I see their point, of course: the president has threatened to veto the bill, which has wide bipartisan support both in Congress and from the public. Bush's position here is unenviable, but he got himself into it all by himself.

Meanwhile, while the Republicans squabble over how many bills to bring up, Democrats say they haven't even seen the alternative pieces of legislation, several of which have never been formally introduced. One, by Wyoming's Mike Enzi, has been completed; but Enzi told Roll Call only "a few people" have been allowed to see it. What?! Plus, Democrats have said they may object to the six-vote concept anyway, even if the bill's Republican backers go along.

This is turning into a "governed by children" moment with each passing day.

The Roll Call piece does have a couple bright spots at the end: Senator Lamar Alexander, Frist's Tennessee colleague, has publicly stated he will support the Specter-Harkin bill, and Mississippi's Thad Cochran is leaning that way as well, saying "Where cells are going to be discarded, I hope we can find ways to use them."

There is no good reason to keep the Specter-Harkin legislation from a vote: providing political cover to President Bush and Bill Frist shouldn't be the job of the United States Senate.


At 11:10 AM, Blogger chris said...

Unbelievable. Coleman will never move beyond carrying water for Bush. First Rove and now this. When he campaigned, he said he'd give us a voice because Wellstone was too extreme. Now it's pretty obvious that the voice is set on sucking up to Bush.

Al Franken 2010!


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