Congresswoman Will Play Hardball on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 29, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Congresswoman Will Play Hardball on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 29
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — Should President Bush issue a second veto of a measure forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research a congresswoman who is one of the leading bill supporters vows to play hardball. Colorado Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette promised to attach the bill to important legislation Bush needs to sign.

"He can do this the easy way, or he can do this the hard way," DeGette threatened.

The House of Representatives approved the bill on a 253-174 vote two weeks ago and the Senate is expected to approve it.

However the vote was well short of the two-thirds needed to override a veto, which the president has promised because he doesn’t favor science involving the destruction of human life.

Because she doesn’t have the votes, DeGette says she may amend another bill to include the embryonic stem cell research funding, forcing the president to perhaps veto an otherwise non-controversial measure as a result.

This is the second time the idea has been proposed, as Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, promised two weeks ago to attach the measure to another bill.

"The president has to understand this is not going to go away," Harkin told Congressional Quarterly at the time.

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of National Right to Life, told that "the House will sustain a veto on this legislation regardless of how much pseudo-drama Sen. Harkin scripts on the Senate side."

John said the idea from DeGette and Harkin won’t work because President Bush will still veto the bill.

"Under that scenario, the ‘must-pass’ bill gets vetoed, Harkin pretends that the sky will fall if the veto is not overridden, the veto is sustained anyway, the Democratic leadership then quickly removes the bad provision and passes the rest of the ‘must-pass’ bill again, and the cleaned-up bill gets signed," Johnson explained.

"The only purpose of such an exercise would be for Harkin and his allies to get more opportunities for demagoguery in the news media," he said.

Another idea of backers of embryonic stem cell research, which has yet to be tried on humans because of problems with animal studies, is to have the Senate be the first to try to override the veto because it likely has enough votes to do so.

Democratic leaders of both chambers want the Senate to approve its own version of the bill rather than the House-approved measure. Should that happen, the bill would head to a conference committee and it would be returned to the Senate first once the president vetoes it.

They hope a Senate vote to override the veto would put more pressure on House members to changer their mind and override President Bush.

“They have the override [votes]; we don’t,” a House Democratic aide told CQ. "It makes a very powerful statement that the Senate overrides his second veto.”