[FoRK] Tell your friends: Fire Karl Rove!

Joe Barrera joe
Tue Jul 12 20:56:44 PDT 2005

Jeff Bone wrote:

 > The real question, here, is whether this will finally sink into the
 > thick noggins of some of the knee-jerk formerly-moderate Republicans
 > who have inexplicably closed ranks so tightly around this gangster
 > "presidency" over the last few years. Some of those folks,

It's inspiring to see Spector losing it with these folks.
Even if it is from barely-generalized self-interest.
(... and even Hatch?!)

Yes, stem cells are a bit distant from Rove, but any indication of breaking
ranks with the True Believers in the WH is a good sigh.


Pass the Stem Cell Bill

Wednesday, July 13, 2005; Page A20

THE SENATE WILL soon take up a bill -- already passed by the House -- to 
liberalize the Bush administration's policy on federal funding of stem 
cell research. Under the current policy, government money can be used to 
fund research on certain embryonic stem cell colonies -- known as 
"lines" -- but not on any begun after the policy itself was adopted in 
2001. The new bill, pushed by Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Tom Harkin 
(D-Iowa), would relax this standard considerably, permitting federal 
support for study of a wide array of stem cell lines generated from 
embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. President Bush has 
promised a veto. The Senate should make him do it.

Mr. Bush's policy on stem cell research was not as bankrupt an idea as 
his fiercer critics sometimes make out. It allowed federal money to 
begin flowing to a field that might promise dramatic breakthroughs in 
the treatment of devastating diseases. At this point, however, the 
policy has outlived its value and is impeding research. Consequently, 
the public now faces the question of whether to let moral anxiety about 
the use of human embryos frustrate science that could save and improve 
many lives.

This might be a difficult choice were these embryos not being created 
and destroyed anyway. But these small clusters of cells, which are not 
yet even fetuses, are routinely generated in fertilization clinics in 
quantities that exceed the number of embryos that will actually be 
implanted in women. They will never grow into babies; the only question 
is whether they will be discarded or used in a fashion that benefits 

As the Senate vote draws nearer, there has been talk of alternative 
legislation that would fund research into promising scientific 
techniques that might produce stem cell lines without requiring embryo 
destruction. The idea is to peel off conservative support for 
liberalizing the president's policy by creating an option that could 
still be framed as supportive of stem cell research. Alternative 
strategies for creating stem cell lines -- an idea discussed yesterday 
in an op-ed column by Leon R. Kass, chairman of the President's Council 
on Bioethics -- should certainly be explored, and it makes sense for 
Congress to support such research. But these techniques are, at this 
stage, nascent and uncertain and have not yet successfully yielded cell 
lines [and have not been published in any referreed journals -- joe]. 
They therefore cannot now support the research that is so urgently 
needed. Federal support for research into their viability is at best a 
complement to -- not a substitute for -- funding the full range of study 
possible now on embryonic lines. Such hypothetical alternatives should 
not be permitted to derail an important change in policy.


Republicans Break
Ranks on Stem Cells
Senate Is Likely to Pass Bill
Expanding Federal Funds
For Research, Defying Bush

July 7, 2005; Page A4

WASHINGTON -- Republicans are breaking with President Bush on federal 
funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The question is whether enough 
of them will break to upend his policy anytime soon.

Polls show that most rank-and-file Republicans favor increased federal 
funding for such research, despite the staunch opposition of Mr. Bush 
and conservative leaders. In May, 50 Republican House members defected 
from the White House line and joined Democrats in approving a measure to 
expand funding.

Now it is the Senate's turn to consider the idea. And backers of 
expanded research say they have a chance to do even better: amass a 
majority large enough to override a presidential veto.

Reaching that 67-vote threshold won't be easy. And it probably wouldn't 
result in overturning Mr. Bush's restrictions on embryonic stem-cell 
research now, because the House vote was about 50 votes short of 
override strength. But proponents say every strong display of support 
moves their goal closer to reality -- if not in this Congress, then in 
the one after 2006 elections.

"If the president vetoes the legislation, the issue isn't finished," 
said Lawrence Soler, a government-relations official at the Juvenile 
Diabetes Research Foundation, a stem-cell advocacy group in Washington. 
"The fact that a majority of the House and Senate support the 
legislation is a critical step in building support that will eventually 
produce an expansion of the policy."

[Getting on the Board]

The first challenge is getting the 60 Senate votes needed to surmount a 
filibuster by conservative opponents of expanded research. Proponents 
say they are already on the threshold of clearing that hurdle. But the 
greater the number over 60, the greater the chance of forcing 
concessions on stem-cell policy from a White House that has long relied 
on near-unanimous support from fellow Republicans.

Moderate Republican senators who favor abortion rights, such as Arlen 
Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia Snowe of Maine, already are mostly 
aligned with minority Democrats favoring expanded research. Those still 
in play tend to have antiabortion credentials and political backing and 
are wary of breaking ranks with party leaders and the president.

But many of these senators represent states with solid constituencies, 
in universities and business, for advances in medical science. Those 
constituencies, combined with polls showing lopsided public support for 
embryonic stem-cell research, leave the Senate's stem-cell swing bloc 
feeling squeezed.

"If we could find some happy compromise that allows the research to 
continue, we would all be happy," says Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, 
executive director of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership. 
"We don't want to force the president into a veto."

Among those wavering is Sen. George Allen, the former governor of 
Virginia. His state has a thriving science and technology industry. But 
Mr. Allen is a potential 2008 entrant in Republican presidential 
primaries, where social conservatives wield strong influence.

Sen. Allen ducked questions about his stance in an interview, saying he 
won't be "pigeonholed" on whether he supports the current Senate bill. 
He said he seeks a "third way" to avoid ethical dilemmas, such as 
scientific procedures that extract stem cells from an embryo without 
destroying it.

So far, however, that approach consists mostly of proposals or 
early-stage experiments in animals; in some cases the results haven't 
been published. And the possibility that existing embryos could be 
harmed in some cases leaves the idea vulnerable to objection under the 
government's legal and ethical guidelines for federally funded research.

Embryonic stem cells have the special ability to develop into every type 
of cell in the human body. Their medical potential may include 
treatments for Parkinson's disease, diabetes, heart disease and other 
ailments. Supporters say the bill awaiting Senate consideration limits 
funding to stem cells from those embryos that would be discarded by 
fertility clinics in any event because they are unneeded by couples.

Opponents say the research amounts to destruction of human life. The 
policy Mr. Bush enunciated in August 2001 permitted funding for research 
on those stem-cell lines that existed at that point. To create embryonic 
stem cells for research, a stem-cell line must be created from the inner 
cell mass of a week-old embryo. Embryonic stem cells can grow and divide 
indefinitely and can be distributed to researchers.

Another officially undecided Republican is Sen. Norm Coleman of 
Minnesota. Though Mr. Coleman has a strong right-to-life voting record, 
his state boasts a large biomedical industry, the Mayo Clinic and a top 
stem-cell research facility at the University of Minnesota. Some of 
those biomedical interests worry that failure to overturn Mr. Bush's 
policy will push stem-cell research overseas or to states such as 
California, which recently passed a $3 billion bond issue to conduct 
such research.

Some Republicans with strong antiabortion reputations, like Utah's Orrin 
Hatch, are already squarely on the side of expanded research. Proponents 
hope that Mr. Hatch's co-sponsorship of the Senate bill will provide 
political "cover" for other antiabortion senators to line up behind 
expanded research.

"Life doesn't begin in a Petri dish," Mr. Hatch said at a recent news 
conference. Some social conservatives acknowledge that Mr. Hatch's 
outspoken stance has undercut them.

They respond, in part, by warning members of Congress that support for 
embryonic-stem-cell research is a "slippery slope" leading toward 
therapeutic cloning, a process of cultivating stem cells that are 
tailored to individual patients, but is specifically excluded from this 
legislation. "The real issue is cloning," says Douglas Johnson, 
legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, a large 
antiabortion group.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who opposes expanded research, has 
said it is likely that a bill will come to the floor soon after the 
chamber's recess. But unlike in the House, where leaders permitted only 
a yes-or-no floor vote, the Senate's wide-open rules permit potential 

That means the legislation could be modified and set up negotiations 
between the House and Senate on a final version.

Such a process, especially after a major show of strength from backers 
of expanded stem-cell research, could tempt the White House to acquiesce 
in a compromise.

Write to Bernard Wysocki Jr. at bernie.wysocki at wsj.com

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