As I was scrolling through i-Tunes looking for some summer music to download, I happened to come across the song “Buttons” at almost the same time the news reports had come on reporting that the Senate, in a 63-37 vote, gave final approval to expanding federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, which many scientists believe offers the potential for finding cures for Parkinson’s, diabetes and other illnesses that afflict millions of Americans. While the strength of this vote in a Republican-based senate is rather amazing, this falls just 4 votes short the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override Bush’s veto. The President however, left little doubt he would reject the bill despite late appeals on its behalf from fellow Republicans Nancy Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Embryonic stem cells are essentially master cells, able to morph into all the cell types found in the body. If scientists could learn to control these cells and coax them into becoming specific types on demand, they could grow replacements for damaged tissue. The idea is to use this process still theoretical to cure or treat a raft of diseases and injuries, from diabetes to Alzheimer’s and spinal cord damage.

Senate supporters of the bill likened that logic to opposition suffered by Galileo, Christopher Columbus and others who were rebuked in their time but vindicated later.

Schwarzenegger (governor, R-CA) wrote, “I urge you not to make the first veto of your presidency one that turns America backwards on the path of scientific progress and limits the promise of medical miracles for generations to come.”

House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, disagreed, predicting that science soon would find a less controversial way to develop equally promising cell therapies. “I don’t think it will be an issue in the future,” he said. “I think science is moving way down the road in a big hurry where this will no longer be an issue.” I personally find such remarks to be disingenuous and naïve. You don’t just predict something in order to make it happen.

Rick Santorum R-Pa.,who voted against the bill, went so far as to say that he thought many scientists lack sufficient moral standards.

We all know that President Bush has said that he’ll veto this bill Wednesday (tomorrow). It will be his first veto since he took office in 2001. He opposes the research because it involves destroying human embryos, which he considers taking life, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said Tuesday. This continues to be a very difficult question of politics, morality and science, which many, including the President struggle with. Within hours of Bush’s veto, the House of Representatives will vote to override it, but it’s certain to fall short of the two-thirds majority needed.

The president and his followers risk alienating many Americans — and a chunk of their rank-and-file — who support stem cell research using human embryos. Stem cell research funding is all but certain to be a political issue heading into the 2008 presidential campaign as many scientists continue to press the federal government to act because existing stem cell lines are unsuitable for clinical trials.

Polls show as much as 70 percent public support for embryonic stem cell research. Have the Republicans lost touch with the majority of the voting electorate that put them in majority positions in the Senate and House for so many years?

And, have the results of this Senate vote simply served to get the hopes up of the American stem cell researchers (again) into thinking that they might actually be able to finally obtain US Federal funding for their research rather than have to take this research to other countries?

“I’m tellin’ you loosen up my buttons babe
But you keep frontin’ me
Sayin’ what you gon’ do to me
But I ain’t seen nothin’

I’m tellin’ you loosen up my buttons babe
But you keep frontin’ me
Sayin’ what you gon’ do to me
But I ain’t seen nothin’ ”

Buttons (Pussycat Dolls)

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