At today’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s statement today on stem cell research. McClellan took issue with a reporter’s characterization of Frist’s release: “the president is stuck in a 2001 decision when the science is passing him by.” It makes sense that McClellan doesn’t want to admit that even Frist, who is usually a loyal ally of the President, is starting to waver. But, in the statement, it’s clear that Frist has finally accepted the fact that the President’s stem cell research policy is failing:
On August 9, 2001, shortly after I outlined my principles (Cong. Rec. 18 July 2001: S7846-S7851), President Bush announced his policy on embryonic stem cell research. His policy was fully consistent with my ten principles, so I strongly supported it. It federally funded embryonic stem cell research for the first time. It did so within an ethical framework. And it showed respect for human life.
While human embryonic stem cell research is still at a very early stage, the limitations put in place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases. Therefore, I believe the President’s policy should be modified. We should expand federal funding (and thus NIH oversight) and current guidelines governing stem cell research, carefully and thoughtfully staying within ethical bounds.
Then again, maybe Frist is just trying to prove he still deserves that MD degree.