Friday, July 29, 2005

Frist to Back Funding of Stem Cell Study

ABC News
Frist to Back Funding of Stem Cell Study
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to Back Funding of Stem Cell Research

By H. JOSEF HEBERT Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

Jul. 29, 2005 - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, breaking with President Bush, plans to announce support of legislation to expand federal financing for embryonic stem cell research, increasing the possibility Congress will enact the measure, a Senate aide knowledgeable about Frist's plans said late Thursday.

Frist, who last month said he did not at this time support expanded federal financing of such research, is expected to explain his decision to now support such financing in a speech on the Senate floor on Friday morning.

Frist plans to say that he has reservations about disagreeing with Bush's policy that stringently limits taxpayer financing for stem cell research, but will support the legislation anyway, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a reluctance to undercut Frist's formal announcement.

Bob Stevenson, the majority leader's spokesman, declined to comment beyond saying that Frist planned remarks on stem cell research when the Senate resumes business Friday.

Frist could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Frist's decision was first reported Thursday by The New York Times on its Web site.

It quoted Frist as saying in the text of his planned speech that the limitations put in place by the Bush administration in 2001 on stem cell research "will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases."

"Therefore, I believe the president's policy should be modified," the newspaper quoted Frist, a surgeon, as planning to say.

Bush has threatened to veto legislation for expanded financial support for stem cell research.

A bill to finance more stem cell research has passed the House, but has been stalled in the Senate.

The shift in views could impact Frist's presidential prospects since it would put him in conflict with not only the White House but also Christian conservatives, whose support he has been courting.

The Times said that Frist, in his speech, will reaffirm his position on abortion and say he can reconcile his position on stem cell research with his pro-life views.

"I believe human life beings at conception," he is quoted as saying. "I also believe that embryonic stem cell research should be encouraged and supported."

In 2001, Bush announced his position on stem cell research, saying that the government should pay only for research of stem cell colonies, or lines, that were created by that date where the "life or death" decision already has been made.