Bush Veto: Hard to Imagine

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, July 18, 2006; 3:12 PM

The last time the ethically and politically charged topic of stem-cell research came to a head in Washington, President Bush surprised everyone with a canny compromise proposal that -- while based on dubious assumptions that have since proven incorrect -- bought him five years of relative peace and quiet on the issue.

This time around, it sure looks like Bush will issue the first veto of his presidency once the Senate sends him legislation to ease the restrictions he has imposed on federal stem-cell research.

A veto would likely intensify the battle over stem cells between the religious right and, well, pretty much everybody else. It would also place Bush squarely on the opposite side of public opinion on the issue. Neither of these would be good news for the White House.

But as hapless as Bush's team is showing itself to be in so many other arenas -- foreign policy and emergency management spring to mind -- they are still pretty darn wily when it comes to domestic politics.

And recall that back in August of 2001, this important issue looked similarly irreconcilable until Bush held his first presidential address , at which he announced with great fanfare a cobbled-together approach just short of a ban. His aides fanned out to muffle the conservatives outcry and spin the press. Bush won the media cycle, and the issue returned to a low simmer.

It's not clear that there is an escape hatch for Bush this time around, but you can bet Karl Rove is cooking something up even as I type.

The Looming Confrontation

Rick Klein writes in the Boston Globe: "The Senate is poised today to approve a long-stalled bill designed to expand embryonic stem cell research, setting up a presidential veto -- and adding to an already full plate of issues on which Republicans are divided on the eve of crucial midterm congressional elections. . . .

"The move will please social conservatives, who contend that experimenting on fertilized human eggs to cure diseases amounts to ending human lives.

"Yet Bush's veto of a measure that appears to enjoy strong public support will be a deep disappointment to GOP moderates, including some who are facing tight reelection campaigns in a year that Democrats have high hopes for taking control of Congress."

Margaret Talev writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "From lawmakers to former first lady Nancy Reagan, Republicans who support expanded embryonic stem-cell research are considering making appeals to President Bush to change his mind about vetoing the legislation. . . .

"Final congressional passage is expected Tuesday, but amassing the necessary two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override a Bush veto could be impossible. That's why even Republicans confident of Senate victory are weighing a final lobbying push to Bush."

Janet Hook writes in the Los Angeles Times: "The legislation's supporters argued that it could help transform medical science in the United States, with more than 100 million patients potentially benefiting from research that might develop cures or treatments for such conditions as diabetes, spinal cord injuries and Parkinson's disease. . . .

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