The Corner

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RE: Living in 2005


Ramesh is exactly right. The Democrats are increasingly living in the past on stem cells, even as they claim to be the party of science. A glance at the actual text of the Executive Order Bush issued today would teach them a little about the difference between describing stem cells by their source (say, adult vs. embryonic) and describing stem cells by their functional capacity (say, multipotent vs. pluripotent).


Such a glance would also refute the claim they’ve been making today that the Executive Order is, in Rahm Emanuel’s phrase on CNN this afternoon, “purely symbolic.” The order actually says:

Within 90 days of this order, the Secretary, after such consultation with the Director of the National Institutes of Health (Director), shall issue a plan, including such mechanisms as requests for proposals, requests for applications, program announcements and other appropriate means, to implement subsection (a) of this section.

These mechanisms are means of creating new channels of NIH funding for research. Any scientist will tell you: that’s no symbol, that’s how grants come to be. It’s true, of course, the Executive Order does not appropriate new dollars but only rearranges existing funds. Only Congress can appropriate. And the Senate actually voted to appropriate new dollars for the emerging ethical pluripotent stem cell techniques, passing a bill to do so by a vote of 70-28 in April. But the House leadership, in which Rep. Emanuel serves, has refused to even bring that bill up for a vote—choosing a political talking point over the potential for a scientific solution.