In a surprise move on the Senate floor Friday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist publicly endorsed lifting restrictions on stem cell research. Frist (R-Tennessee), a heart surgeon and likely candidate for President of the United States in the 2008 election, announced that he will support a bill, already passed in the House of Representatives in May, that will loosen federal prohibitions on human embryonic stem cell research. As an opponent of abortion whose reaction to this last spring's case in Florida regarding the life support of Terri Schiavo, this announcement that Frist believes "embryonic stem cells uniquely hold specific promise for some therapies and potential cures," came out of nowhere.
Is Frist merely playing his cards right in hopes to attain the nomination of his party in 3 years? Not likely, but he certainly is staging something that will win him friends on the left side of the isle. Praise has already come from the mouth of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). The question isn't whether liberals will love him, the question is how much will his own party hate him? He was seen at the White House today with President Bush on a completely unrelated matter, but it is clearly obvious that his own party is at odds with him for the moment.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) who certainly has his work cut out for him right now as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, implied that Frist's speech was the most important speech on the Senate floor this year. Specter, who is battling cancer, was one of few Republicans to praise Frist.
The bill that has already passed the house already has the promise of a veto. Bush has in previous statements made it apparent that a veto is intended, but one must wonder with the clout of Dr. Frist behind it how solid that veto will be. I agree with Senator Frist---"Whether it is Diabetes or Parkinson's Disease, or [his] own field of heart disease, Lou Gehrig's Disease or spinal cord injuries, stem cells offer hope for treatment that other lines of research simply cannot offer."
The 25-year old space shuttle program seems to be nearing a close. NASA announced that upon launch, the space shuttle Discovery did indeed lose large pieces of foam insulation. The space shuttle program appears to be too costly and risky. During the launch of last week's postponed Discovery send-off, foam insulation separated from the shuttle, a problem also existing in the doomed Columbia launch over two years ago, but the foam did not damage the orbiter. The loss caused NASA to take precautions that included grounding/suspending future shuttle flights. Sadly, as much as I love the shuttle program, it seems all NASA can do at this point is clean up one failure after another and try as they might, they just can't win. I predict an end to the shuttle program, that is older that I am, by the time I graduate from ISU.
A storm has been brewing in Washington, D.C. since the announcement of Chief Justice Rehnquist's cancer. The political storm of the century has arrived with the recent Supreme Court nomination. No one quite expected the storm to arrive as early as now and under the circumstances of a resignation/retirement letter of Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. With President Bush's nomination of Judge John Roberts, Jr., the questions have risen and the accusations are flying. In a case that appeared before the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, question of President Bush's authority to contravene the Geneva Conventions, thus establishing a military tribunal to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, not only takes a stab at the sensitivity of American political culture as it relates to Gitmo, but to Judge Roberts as well. The decision (riding on the shoulders of 3 Republican appointed judges including Roberts) showed deference toward executive power and usurpation.
Not only has Gitmo risen in the hoopla, Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy (D-Mass.) says, since the recent release of Robert's documents that he shows a "rather cramped view of the Voting Rights Act." Teddy tends to take things and make them more than they are, but folks this seriously is only the beginning. When it comes to the Supreme Court, the storm is always brewing from each nominee in each administration to the next.
One more bit of Supreme Court news, the confirmation hearings are set to begin either August 29 or September 6. The Supreme Court will reconvene on October 3 and collectively the federal epicenter is hoping to have an appointment and confirmation done by that date. The time table and format of the confirmation hearings are still being discussed in the Judiciary Committee, but Chairman Specter is shooting for an August 29 opening hearing.
Both parties are cooperating in the process, I'm assuming it is the Democrats though that are pushing for the September 6 date so they can keep the Senate's month long recess, but given that September 29 is the last business day before the high court reconvenes, those Senators are going to have to suck it up and get back to work. It's what they get paid for, right??
I've recently added a poll on the confirmation process. Honestly, I don't think it will take much to get Roberts through. I don't know much about the guy yet, but there doesn't seem to be any major clouds hanging over the guy's head. I'd expect maybe Senator Clinton (D-New York) and Senator Kerry (D-Mass.) to put up a fight, but only because they are presidential hopefuls and need to have a strong track record. Always expect a fight out of Teddy Kennedy, he's naturally angry. And maybe in all this fighting we'll be lucky enough to see a few step up...namely Obama, Bayh, and Biden.
It should be a colorful fall in Washington.