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Political Reaction to President Bush’s Stem Cell Decision

August 10, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: Reporter: With members of Congress out of Washington for their August break, there were no public appearances at the Capitol. But the President’s announcement last night generally was received favorably among congressional Republicans who took time to speak out. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch was a leading advocate for federal funding of research using human embryonic cells.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: I think that the President’s announcement was a major step in the right direction. It certainly was a major victory for biomedical research in this country.

KWAME HOLMAN: Kansas’ Sam Brownback opposes human embryo research.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: I’m quite appreciative of the limitations he put forward. I am deeply concerned and continue to be about that moral line that gets crossed.

KWAME HOLMAN: House Republican leaders, including Majority Whip Tom Delay fervently opposed the research. In a statement Delay said, “Last month at the White House President Bush looked me in the eye and told me that he would make a decision on stem cell research from his heart, not from politics or polls, and I believe that he has. However, I’m still disappointed that the federal government will fund embryonic stem cell research, even though the proposed research will take place upon embryos that have already been destroyed.”

Republican Senator Bill Frist, a physician, was one of the first to advocate the President choose a middle ground on funding the research. He was pleased with the decision, saying, “I believe the President has done the nation a great service by allowing promising embryonic stem cell research to proceed while maintaining strong restrictions on the extent of the research and ensuring comprehensive public oversight. There is no doubt some will be concerned that his position does not go far enough, while others will believe it goes too far.”

Like most Democrats, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt supports federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Like most Democrats, House minority leader Dick Gephardt supports federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. He criticized the President’s position as too restrictive saying, “To curtail the expansion of stem cell research by limiting further research is to extend a hand of hope to thousands while using the other to take it away. There are thousands of different types of stem cells, and to allow research only on an isolated group of cells and not go beyond that group and explore new possibilities is short sighted and a failure of leadership on the President’s behalf. Once again, the President has done the bare minimum in order to try and publicly posture himself with the majority of Americans.”

And in his statement, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said the President’s position may not be the final word. Daschle said, “There will be concern about the limits the President has proposed on this research, specifically that the existing stem cell lines could be inadequate to realize its potential life-saving benefit. On an issue such as this, one that could pave the way for ground-breaking research into the cures for debilitating diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, the Senate will want to take action.”