Frist Backs Funding of Stem Cell Research
Senator Supports Bill Expanding Embryonic Stem Cells Available for Federal Funding
Rep. Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.), who celebrated a birthday Friday, was an
author of the bill in the House, where it passed 238-194 in May. "Sen.
Frist just gave me the very best birthday present I've ever gotten," she
At the same time, the announcement shocked those conservatives who strongly
back Bush's limits.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who opposes embryonic stem cell research, said
he was "disappointed" by Frist's remarks. "He concedes [an embryo
is] human life but in a utilitarian view we should go ahead and get something
out of this," he said.
"Sen. Frist is a good man but he is simply advocating a bad policy,"
said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
Announcement's Effects Unclear
Frist, in addition to serving as Republican leader in the Senate, also
carries significant weight with colleagues on health and medical issues because
of his experience as a heart transplant surgeon. Many senators said in
interviews that his support could convince some wavering colleagues to vote for
But it remained unclear what effect the move would have on the debate. The
bill has languished for weeks as senators failed to agree on whether to debate
the bill alone or together with at least six other bills addressing cloning,
new stem cell technologies, and other issues.
Stem cell supporters have demanded a vote on their measure alone, while
opponents wanted to add debate on the other issues. Frist has sided with
opponents on the issue and Friday signaled no willingness to deviate from that
"He still wants to make sure that fair treatment is afforded to all of
those who have a bill," Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said.
Frist informed Bush Thursday night of his planned speech, White House press
secretary Scott McClellan said Friday. McClellan said that "nothing has
changed" in terms of Bush's threat to veto an expansion to his stem cell
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a pro-life lawmaker who also supports embryonic
stem cell research, said in an interview that he would use Frist's support in
an effort to convince the president to change his mind on embryonic stem cell
"I think as he continues to study this he will feel like many others and
say 'what's wrong with helping the living,'" he said.
The American Diabetes Association and other research groups praised Frist's
announcement Friday. "The Senate has an opportunity to help advance the
search for better treatments and a cure for diabetes. With Dr. Frist's support,
it is an opportunity that will not be wasted," ADA president Robert A.
Rizza, MD, said in a statement.