Bush Loses Lott on Stem Cells


From the Boston Globe:

A majority of the US Senate has signed a letter asking President Bush to lift the government's funding restrictions on embryonic stem cells, increasing the pressure to change a policy critics say is holding back potentially lifesaving medical research.

The letter, which is still being circulated for signatures and has not yet been released, says the United States is falling behind in research into diseases "that affect more than 100 million Americans" and calls on the president to "expand" the current policy. It has been signed by 56 senators, including conservatives Trent Lott of Mississippi, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, and 10 other Republicans.
The Senate letter, which mirrors one released by the House of Representatives two months ago, is a sign of how the political terrain has changed since Bush issued his policy in August 2001.

Since then, groups representing victims of diseases that might be helped by the research -- such as Parkinson's or juvenile diabetes -- have been aggressively lobbying Congress. This campaign has included pleading visits from children who have diabetes, as well as a powerful speech from former first lady Nancy Reagan. Though many legislators remain firmly opposed to embryonic stem cell research, the campaign has taken some of the partisan edge off the debate and given the president a measure of political cover should he decide to alter the policy.
Backers of the Senate letter want more signatures because they are still short of the 60 senators whose approval would be needed to force a vote on a controversial topic.

The letter raises the prospect that the ban could be lifted with new legislation, but even critics of Bush's policy consider that unlikely. It would be hard to find the two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress needed to overturn a presidential veto, Soler conceded. Instead, the senators offer to work with Bush to forge a new policy.