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President Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Bill

President Bush issued his first veto Wednesday on a bill that would have eased restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Two political analysts discuss the use of the presidential veto.

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    The last two-term president to go this long without casting a veto was Thomas Jefferson. That was in 1809, and he never vetoed a bill.

    For President Bush, it took until today, five-and-a-half years after he took office, for him to use the stroke of a pen to reverse a congressional action.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: This legislation would overturn the balanced policy on embryonic stem-cell research that my administration has followed for the past five years. This bill would also undermine the principle that Congress itself has followed for more than a decade when it has prohibited federal funding for research that destroys human embryos.

    If this bill were to become law, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos, and I'm not going to allow it.


    The legislation, passed by the Senate yesterday and the House last year, would expand federally funded embryonic stem-cell research. Polls show about 70 percent of Americans support that, and many of the nation's top scientists believe it could lead to medical breakthroughs.

    But since first outlining his policy in 2001, Mr. Bush has maintained that the government should not pay for human embryos to be destroyed in the name of research. At the White House today, the president was joined on stage by families with children born from frozen embryos.


    Some people argue that finding new cures for disease requires the destruction of human embryos like the ones that these families adopted. I disagree. I believe that, with the right techniques and the right policies, we can achieve scientific progress while living up to our ethical responsibilities.


    Today's veto pleased social conservatives, like Indiana Republican Mike Pence.

    REP. MIKE PENCE (R), Indiana: As a pro-life American, like millions of Americans, I believe that it is morally wrong to destroy nascent human life for the purpose of benefiting other human life. And I commend the president for taking a strong, principled, moral stand on this issue.


    But other Republicans joined with Democrats to split from the president. Notable among them, Majority Leader Bill Frist, who led the Senate's push to defy the president. Frist, a physician who once sided with the president, now says times have changed.

    SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), Senate Majority Leader: As science has progressed over the last five years, we have learned that fewer than the anticipated number of cell lines have proved suitable for research, and I feel that the limit on cell lines available for federally funded research is too restrictive.


    Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, a sponsor of the bill Frist helped pass, denounced the president's veto today.

    SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), Iowa: Who set up, the president of the United States, this president, as our moral pope? The president of the United States is not our moral ayatollah. He may wish to be, but he's not.