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Congress and Stem Cells

Slate has a great piece on the Republican-led Senate’s decision last year to stop votes on federal funding for stem cell research. From Slate: If a majority of legislators vote for the bill, will Bush accept that? No. He says…
May 24, 2005

Slate has a great piece on the Republican-led Senate’s decision last year to stop votes on federal funding for stem cell research.

From Slate:

If a majority of legislators vote for the bill, will Bush accept that? No. He says he’ll veto it. Bush’s point man in the House, Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., proudly told the Wall Street Journal, “We have a veto-sustainable minority.” When Bush and his allies are in the minority, a minority is good enough.

I can’t tell you how much stories like these make me shake with rage. I’d like to say it’s my good, old-fashioned political leanings that get me fired up. More likely, though, it’s my Appalachian sense of right and wrong that blazes through when it comes to hypocrisy.

I was brought up in a place where there were moral absolutes about certain things, and they weren’t to be questioned. These weren’t the types of absolutes that most people read about in the papers, but, to paraphrase Rick Bragg in Now and Then this month, I come from a place where it’s okay to punch a man who dares to violate one of those.

There are certain things that you do, certain ways to act. When you make a mistake, you step up and take your punishment. When your neighbor needs help, you walk next door no questions asked. When you look a man in the eye, you tell him the truth – and then you stand behind that word and don’t use it as a tool to get yourself through.

And that, maybe, is the most important lesson that I learned growing up. Your word means something. If you want an up or down vote on the federal judges, then you better want a yes or no vote on everything, particularly the things you don’t like.

Which brings us back to this Slate story about filibusters and stem cell research. We’ve turned political, which we so often do, that which should be about helping people, finding cures for people, and making a better life for people.

And just to be clear, I’m under no grand illusions that this would be any different under the Democrats leadership. I have a pretty good recollection of the 80s, when the Dems ruled the Congress. My stomach would turn just the same.

While I hope I’ve grown out of squaring off with every person who commits some wrong that offends me, I certainly think that there are times it’s appropriate to fight in a more civilized manner – and yet, I hear nothing about this hypocrisy from those who support funding for stem cell research. Even as President Bush’s domestic approval rating plummets, it seems there is nobody willing to stand up and fight.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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