President Bush said Tuesday he would veto legislation by Republicans lawmakers who want to relax his 2001 restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
“I made it clear to the United States Congress I took the right position, and we’ll veto any bill that doesn’t adhere to that stance,” Bush said in a White House meeting with eight regional newspapers, including the McClatchy Washington Bureau. “They have a prerogative to pass bills, and I have a prerogative to set limits on what I think is right.”
The White House has made the veto threat before on stem cell research legislation. But this was the first time Bush addressed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s breakaway announcement that he would support a boost in federal funding for stem cell research.
Frist, a heart surgeon and potential 2008 presidential candidate, unleashed a political maelstrom Friday in a lengthy Senate speech suggesting that, while he opposes abortion, he no longer agrees with Bush’s opinion that enough scientific progress is being made through research on the stem cell lines the president authorized via executive order four years ago.
The speech sparked bitter criticism from conservative leaders and religious groups. But it drew praise from advocates of stem cell research, including Nancy Reagan, the widow of former President Ronald Reagan, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease the last decade of his life.
Bush limited federal funding for research to stem cell lines already in existence before Aug. 9, 2001, the date he announced his decision. Because harvesting embryonic stem cells destroys human embryos, Bush and many other pro-life conservatives equate it with abortion.
“I made the decision in 2001 that science was important . . . and there were already some stem cell lines, in other words, the life or death decision had already been made,” Bush said Tuesday. “Therefore, it seemed to make sense to me that since the decision had already been made, that taxpayer dollars could be used on those stem cell lines.”