Monday, July 17, 2006

A Veto-Proof Majority for Stem Cells = Bad News for Mark Green

Polls show that with 70 percent support the American people would be able to override a Bush veto on stem cell research, the question remains whether 67 percent of the Senate will be able to come together to do it for them.

The Senate is set to take up a bill passed in the House last year to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The bill will almost certainly pass and face the first ever veto by President Bush, but it’s still up in the air whether 67 Senators will agree to override that veto.

The AP reports today: “Vote-counters on both sides expect at least 60 supporters, the number required to pass. But whether the legislation can display the crucial veto-proof 67 is unknown, and key: House supporters say a veto-proof margin in the Senate might inspire one in the House. That chamber fell 50 votes short of that threshold last year, when it passed the bill 238-194.”

If the bill does pass with a veto-proof majority in the Senate and, in turn, causes a wave of support in the House, it doesn’t spell good news for Mark Green.

Green voted against the bill last year and has maintained a firm stance against any embryonic stem cell research, which is a risky position in the state often referred to as the cradle for such research. Heck, with 70 percent of the American population in favor of embryonic stem cell research, it’s a risky position anywhere.

If the House is forced by a Senate veto-override to reconsider the bill it would do two things: 1) extend and expand the media coverage of the debate, and 2) force Mark Green to go on the record once again as an opponent of this popular research -- and this time in the midst of a broad national debate and his gubernatorial run with just a few short months to go before election day.

On the other hand, if Green flips and decides to support the bill, then he threatens his social conservative support in Wisconsin from groups like Wisconsin Right to Life, which has already spent a significant portion of its time and resources on trumpeting Green for governor.

Simply having the debate rehashed like this on a national scale already doesn’t bode well for Green, who consistently has done all he can with the media to muddy the waters about his opposition to the research. And the fact that Bush has promised to use his first ever veto on it makes it all that much more enticing of a story.

But if the Senate can trump Bush’s veto and send the spotlight of the debate back onto the House, then the Green Team will really have itself in a prickly situation. After all, there aren't too many ways to spin yet another "No" vote.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Green voted against the bill last year and has maintained a firm stance against any embryonic stem cell research..."

I have been reading your blog for some time now and I thought you were too bright to just blatantly lie. Green does not oppose all embryonic stem cell research. He opposes cloning and creating a life to end a life.

Now, your polling is telling you that Green vulnerable on this issue - but only when you misrepresent his position. When the whole argument is given, the poll number change dramatically.

I undesratnd your desire to find a winning issue for Doyle - but to flat out lie about Green opposing all stem cell research is amateurish.

He voted for the inital federal funding of embryonic stem cell research - with Bush being the first preseident to spend federal dollars. And Green's opposition is using federal dollars for cloning. The private sector can do unlimited research and Green has never tried to stop that, or even influence it for that matter.

If embryonic stem cells hold all the promise - why are public dollars so needed? Drug companies have billions to spend on research.

Where are they spending their dollars? Adult stem cells are getting more private dollars because they have actually yielded results - whereas embryonic stem cells have onlny worked in generating research dollars and campaign slogans.

At what point do embryoinc stem cells have to actually cure something to be a viable research avenue?

But for this election cycle - that doesn't matter - you need an issue and obviously don't mind misrepresenting the facts about Green.

July 17, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I’m glad to hear you’re a regular reader, and I’m sorry to disappoint you with this post – but I don’t lie in it.

I’ll run through some of your points one-by-one:

Green does not oppose all embryonic stem cell research.

This just isn’t true. I would’ve taken more time to provide evidence of Green’s position on embryonic stem cell research, but I felt it was already pretty well established in the public record. Every account on the topic that you can find in a major newspaper asserts that Green is against embryonic stem cell research – since his campaign hasn’t directly challenged this assertion, I find it to be an accurate one. (Here is one example from an article that appeared in the Journal-Sentinel this past weekend.)

But the evidence doesn’t stop there.

Due to Green’s spin on the issue when discussing it with media, perhaps the clearest picture of Green’s position is a letter written by two Milwaukee bishops to Governor Doyle in May. The letter asks Doyle to pull state resources from embryonic stem cell research and focus solely on adult stem cell research. At the time, Green called the letter “right on,” and said that it reflects what he “has been saying all along.” In other words, Green opposes using government resources for embryonic stem cell research (there’s very little he can do to ban it from the private sector, although he can place restrictions on research procedures).

If you're still curious about where Green stands, just ask the group Wisconsin Right to Life, which is endorsing him based in part upon his opposition to embryonic stem cell research. You could also ask the Green Team directly, but good luck getting a straight answer (you'll probably hear the ambiguous phrase "moral compass" more than once).

This leads me to another point you make: [Green] voted for the inital federal funding of embryonic stem cell research - with Bush being the first preseident to spend federal dollars.

This is misleading and untrue.

Green never voted to fund embryonic stem cell research explicitly – the vote in 2001 was regarding putting restrictions on what lines of embryonic stem cells could be funded with federal dollars.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) receives general budget funding from Congress and the president. When Bush and the Republican Congress placed restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research in 2001, the research was already taking place.

As it happens, Bill Clinton was the first president to approve federal funding for embryonic stem cell research as part of the 1993 National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, which gave the NIH direct authority to fund embryonic stem cell research. See here for more.

Bush, Green, and the rest of the GOP Congress in 2001 placed restrictions on the funding granted by Clinton. To say that Green supported embryonic stem cell research because he didn’t vote to eliminate it completely is disingenuous at best. Completely eliminating the research would’ve been politically impossible, even with a Republican-controlled Congress. The bill to restrict it was as much as the conservatives were able to get, so they took it.

And, as Green’s public comments since then make clear, if it was politically possible to completely eliminate embryonic stem cell research, he would do it. Until then, as a legislator and as a governor if elected, Green will do everything he can to maintain and increase restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, as he made clear through last years vote against lifting the restrictions despite the fact that the vast majority of Congress (and the American people) now support such a move.

Leading me to another one of your points: [Green] opposes cloning and creating a life to end a life.

Embryonic stem cell research currently uses discarded embryos from fertility clinics, which negates the issue of “creating a life to end a life.” Since fertility clinics are legal and widespread in this country, thousands of embryos are destroyed every year regardless of the practice of embryonic stem cell research. What embryonic stem cell research provides is an opportunity to use those embryos for positive purposes before they are destroyed.

If Mark Green is really interested in saving embryos from destruction, he should be working against fertility clinics, not embryonic stem cell research.

On to your last points: If embryonic stem cells hold all the promise - why are public dollars so needed? and At what point do embryoinc stem cells have to actually cure something to be a viable research avenue?

The funding question is a point of distraction for the GOP. Research funding is taking place by the private sector, but it is not enough and we should be doing more with public money to help the cause.

Currently the NIH funds nearly 1/3 of the entire biotechnology sector, while private dollars cover the rest. 1/3 is a lot of money, and why should embryonic stem cell research miss out on getting full funding from that amount because of arbitrary restrictions that have nothing to do with whether or not embryos are actually destroyed (again, that’s a result of widely-accepted fertility practices)?

Despite the fact that embryonic stem cell research hasn’t been fully funded and it’s less than 10 years old (whereas adult stem cell research was developed back in the 1970s), it has shown remarkable promise. Just last month researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered how to repair nerve damage using embryonic stem cells – something that couldn’t be done without them.

When the restrictions were first imposed in 2001, embryonic stem cell research was just in its infancy. Now that rapid advancements have been made, the research is far more viable, but the restrictions placed on it by Bush and the GOP (including Mark Green) hamper its growth potential.

According to a Washington Post article from 2003: “A series of important advances have boosted the potential of human embryonic stem cells to treat heart disease, spinal cord injuries and other ailments, but researchers say they are unable to take advantage of the new techniques under a two-year-old administration policy that requires federally supported scientists to use older colonies of stem cells.”

(For another article on how the federal restrictions hurt embryonic stem cell research, see here.)

And to claim that researchers are trumpeting embryonic stem cell research solely for financial gain (“embryonic stem cells have onlny worked in generating research dollars and campaign slogans”) is ludicrous and insulting.

In fact, I would love to see Mark Green go on the record saying that greed is all that is driving embryonic stem cell research. I think that would show the state very clearly how far out of the mainstream he is – just as his vote against lifting the federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research already does.

July 18, 2006  

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