President George W. Bush has another opportunity to do the right thing by making the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act law. If he chooses to stubbornly avert his eyes from the mounting public support for action and veto this legislation again, he will defy the will of both Congress and the American people.
Nearly 65 percent of the American public supports embryonic stem cell research, including numerous scientists and hundreds of organizations working to alleviate the suffering of those with various diseases and disabilities. Embryonic stem cell research wears no political stripes -- it is embraced by conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
Since President Bush's first veto last July, thousands of people who have been diagnosed with diseases could benefit from this potentially life-saving research. President Bush can do the right thing by signing this bill into law -- opening his mind to the promise of this research giving millions of patients and their families hope.
The 2006 election was largely a referendum on President Bush's policies and the results make clear that his first veto was a mistake. The House again passed this with an even greater majority in January -- of the 16 new Democratic votes in support, 14 were cast by Members who defeated or replaced Republicans who opposed this research. In early April, the Senate passed stem cell legislation -- coming close to a veto-proof majority. With the House approval of the Senate version by 247 votes, it now heads to the President for his signature -- can he afford to keep ignoring the will of the people?
My bipartisan bill repeals Bush's draconian federal policy by allowing federal funds to be used in research on stem cell lines by using excess embryos created through the in-vitro fertilization process that would otherwise be discarded. This bill contains ethical standards that do not exist in current law. The president's August 2001 directive arbitrarily limits federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on only a select number of previously derived stem cell lines. Unfortunately, researchers have since found many of the lines to be contaminated and no longer viable for human research.
In the absence of federal funding, states and private entities have begun to invest in research - but cannot match the resources of the National Institutes of Health. As a result, many of our leading scientists are taking their work abroad.
I join with the overwhelming majority of Americans in urging the President to seize this opportunity to correct a grave mistake by making this bill law.
Diana DeGette, who is a Chief Deputy Whip and Vice Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is a 6th term Member of Congress representing the first District of Colorado.