Frist Strikes Again, Defying Public Support, The House and Fellow Republicans To Uphold Bush's Fight Against Stem Cell Research
It's been a heck of a week for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN).
Two days after serving as the Bush Administration's lackey to derail a bipartisan effort to set rules for the treatment of enemy prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other military detention camps, Frist, a medical doctor, weighed conservative spin vs. medical science in the debate over stem cell research, and guess what? Spin won.
Frist denied a request this morning to address a bill, after Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) made a motion to bring the bill to the Senate floor.
The House version of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act passed with a 238-194 vote May 24. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE), would violate President Bush's Aug. 9, 2001, executive order that allows federal funding only for research on stem cells derived from embryos destroyed before that date.
Bush has maintained that he would veto any legislation that tried to end the ban. Rather than risk an embarrassing confrontation -- should the bill have passed the Senate -- Frist did his duty as Bush's lackey, and prevented it from being debated.
Bush's opposition, supported by Frist, in the name of the religious right, is because he opposes spending taxpayer money "to promote science that destroys life in order to save life."
But that's conservative spin, not science. Stem cells are extracted from embryos that would otherwise be discarded, from places such as in vitro fertilization clinics. There is zero chance that these embryos would have become babies. It's the equivalent of a person offering to donate organs after they die.
The embryos can be manipulated to create various human-blood and tissue cells. Stem cell lines are cell groups extracted from embryos and are capable of reproducing themselves. Advocates say that ultimately, embryonic stem cell research will lead to cures for a variety of diseases, most notably Parkinson's Disease.
"We are disappointed that the Senate is leaving for its August recess without addressing this vital issue," said Daniel Perry, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, which represents 95 nationally-recognized patient groups, scientific societies and academic research institutions. "A majority of the American people support stem cell research, a majority of the House supports stem cell research, we are confident a majority of the Senate support stem cell research, and are dismayed they have not yet gotten an opportunity to express that support."
Frist's move came just two days after Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) told the Associated Press that Bush has “drawn a line in the sand that's not pro-science. We don't want to be the party that's anti-science."
Coleman had advocated legislation similar to a bill authored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), which would have quashed Bush's ban and allowed federal funding for research utilizing 400,000 frozen embryos created since the 2001 ban. But the bill also never saw the light of day today, because of Frist.
Meanwhile, another Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who is suffering from Hodgkin's disease, recently said he would attach the language of HR810 to the appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services.