You better make hay because Deadeye Delay on the way

Under threat of Bush veto, legislation spurs emotional debate

By Noble Johns

Every tyrant in my lifetime has had their own physical characteristics; Hitler, his trademark short mustache, Bush’s stupid grin, and now we have Tom Delay’s eyes. After watching his impassionate debate on the floor of the House over stem cell research, I noticed something very interesting about Delay — his eyes — I be damned, if this cracker ain’t cross-eyed.

If he’s not cross-eyed, he’s either cocked-eyed or has a deadeye. I notice his eyes when the House passed a controversial bill that would expand public funding for embryonic stem cell research — a bill stupid Bush threatened to veto last week.

I know some may think I am making fun of the “Hammer,” but the next time he’s on TV, check out his eyes. For example, if the iris of eyes crosses over towards the nose, a person is considered cross-eyed, and if the iris of the eyes turns back towards the ears, the person is considered to be cocked-eyed. Finally there is that deadeye, it just lies there, not moving very much but seeing everything.

Fronting, like he always does in the Congress, Deadeye DeLay said the stem cell bill "is both divisive and, to put it bluntly, dismissive of the dignity of human life at its embryonic stage.

"It has, therefore, inside it loud and, in many cases, harsh advocacy on both sides of the debate."

The matter, the Texas Republican acknowledged, is a difficult one.

"This is one of those issues that have no easy answers," he said. "This is not a debate between science and ideology. ... Nor is it a debate between those who care about human life and those who don't."

But, he said, "That's why we were elected, not to make the easy choices, but to make the hard ones."

Several representatives spoke in support of the measure, both at the start of the session and during debate.

"To reduce this issue to an abortion issue is a horrible injustice to 100 million Americans suffering the ravages of diabetes, spinal cord paralysis, heart disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, cancer, MS [multiple sclerosis], Lou Gehrig's disease and other fatal, debilitating diseases," said Rep. Jim Ramstad, a Minnesota Republican.

Bush held a news conference Tuesday surrounded by families who had either adopted or given up for adoption embryos remaining after fertility treatments.

"The children here today are reminders that every human life is a precious gift of matchless value," Bush said. "We should not use public money to support the further destruction of human life."

He added, "With the right policies and the right techniques, we can pursue scientific progress while still fulfilling our moral duties. The children here today remind us that there is no such thing as a spare embryo."

But supporters of the bill say only about 10 percent of excess embryos are adopted; the rest are discarded.

In a news conference Monday, Castle said that under the bill, "if the donors of that particular embryo, the creators of the embryo, the doctor, the in vitro fertilization clinic all sign off on the fact that this embryo is going to be disposed of and then sign off on the fact that it can be used for research, and no money exchanges hands ... then it could be used for research."

Lawmakers on both sides of the debate also scheduled news conferences Tuesday. Medical societies, scholars, patient groups and advocates joined Castle and DeGette to speak in favor of the measure.

"What could be more pro-life than working for a cure for a loved one?" asked Rep. James Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat, another of the bill's 200 cosponsors, who suffered a spinal cord injury at age 16 and cannot walk.

Family members of those with diseases that could potentially be helped by the research also spoke.

"No parent should ever have to look at their child and say, 'There are no more options,' " said Beth Westbrook, whose daughter, Katie, died four years ago at 15 of bone cancer.

Families who have adopted embryos, meanwhile, joined lawmakers opposed to the bill to speak on the issue.

A poll released Monday shows Bush does not have the support of the majority of Americans when it comes to government funding of stem cell research.

Forty-two percent said the federal government should ease restrictions on funding research, and another 11 percent said there should be no restrictions at all, according to recent poll of 1,006 Americans surveyed over the weekend.

But 19 percent said there should be no funding of such research -- an increase from 14 percent in a poll conducted last year.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The vote was 238-194, short of the two-thirds supermajority necessary to override a veto. The measure now goes to the Senate.

The House then overwhelmingly passed a Republican-backed proposal that would use federal money to study stem cells taken from adults and umbilical cord blood, instead of using human embryos.

The vote was 431-1. One Republican voted against the bill, which was supported by Bush.

The first bill passed would extend funding to research on embryonic stem cell lines that were nonexistent in 2001, when Bush limited funding to lines in existence at the time.

According to scientists, many if not all of the previous lines are now contaminated and unusable.

Stem cell research has been touted by scientists as a possible step toward finding cures for diseases and afflictions including Alzheimer's, cancer and paralysis.

Among its most vocal supporters is former first lady Nancy Reagan, whose husband, former President Ronald Reagan, died of Alzheimer's in June 2004.

But, Bush said Friday, "I made very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life, I'm against that. Therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it."

Bush claims the research destroys life because embryos are destroyed in the process. But supporters point out that there are embryos in fertility clinics that would never be used to create babies, but could be used for research purposes.

Rep. Mike Castle, who introduced the bill, said it "draws a strict ethical line by only allowing federally funded research on stem cell lines that were derived ethically from donated embryos determined to be in excess."

"Under no circumstances," the Delaware Republican said in a written statement last week, "does this legislation allow for the creation of embryos for research, nor does it fund the destruction of embryos."

Under the bill, couples who have undergone fertility treatments and have embryos they won't use can then make the choice of putting them up for adoption, giving them directly to another couple, storing them, discarding them or donating them to science, co-sponsor Rep. Diana DeGette said during debate Tuesday.

"The only federal funds used under the Castle-DeGette bill are federal funds to then develop those embryonic stem cell lines" donated to science, the Colorado Democrat said. "We're allowing more of those lines."

The threatened veto would be the first of Bush's presidency. His stance is supported by Catholic leadership and social conservatives but has been rejected by moderate Republicans.

Alternative measure

The measure dealing with umbilical cord blood was introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican.

During debate on that measure Tuesday, opponents of the embryonic stem cell legislation pointed out repeatedly that while adult stem cells have been proven to cure and treat patients, embryonic stem cells have not.

Embryonic stem cell research is "a scientific exploration into the benefits of killing human beings," Deadeye DeLay said.

But, said DeGette, "Frankly, they're good for different things, so let's not muddle the science."

She and other supporters of both bills argued the two should not be divided.

"Separating these two legislative initiatives would be like separating the flag from the Pledge of Allegiance," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat.

And, pointed out Rep. Gene Green, a Texas Democrat, "We'll never know the true

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