Monday, December 19, 2005

Why are we given a choice of 'either or?'

Often, when a bill is introduced in Congress that one party doesn't like, but which open opposition without an alternative plan to carries with it a political price, they will rally behind an alternative bill, which affords them cover for voting against the original bill. And occasionally, the alternative includes with it a good idea.

Such is the case with a pair of Senate bills, both of which are sponsored, in fact, by Republicans. S. 471 (sponsored by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania), seemed to have some momentum moving forward. The bill, called the 'Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act') would rescind President Bush's policy on limited embryonic stem cell research. By this past June 15, it had garnered 41 co-sponsors (of whom 6 were Republicans, so that would have been enough to pass it if all the Democrats came on board-- by June 15, 34 of them in fact had, in addition to Independent Jim Jeffords.)

Republicans however then rallied behind another bill, sponsored by Orrin Hatch of Utah (who is in fact also a co-sponsor of the Specter bill). Its number is Senate Bill S. 1317. Named, the 'Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Therapy and Research Act,' it provide for the collection and maintenance of cord blood units for the treatment of patients and research, and to authorize the Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Cell Transplantation Program to increase the number of transplants for recipients suitable matched to donors of bone marrow and cord blood. It presently is gaining co-sponsors, and as of today it has 34-- eleven Democrats, twenty-three Republicans and Jeffords.

Now, I don't see why the Senate should not consider both of these bills. They both, in separate but not contradictory ways, enhance health care in America. In addition to Senators Hatch and Jeffords, Senators Feinstein, Dodd, Harkin, Durbin, Bayh, Mikulski, Collins, Schumer, Clinton, Reed, and Murray are on board for both. Unfortuately, Hatch and Collins are the only Republicans who are willing to be listed as in support of both bills. But Senators should support both bills. Both support Federal funding for research into techniques that could save many lives. It is mistake to look at one as being a 'substitute' for the other or to play partisan politics with them. In fact, if both pass, then two Republican Senators will be able to point to having been the primary authors of successful bills. So what? If Federal funding is extended to support this research and lives are saved as a result, then who cares who gets credit for that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's probably a turf thing. One bill was introduced to be debated by one committee while the other was introduced to be debated by a second committee. This happens frequently. That doesn't mean that a combination of the two bills won't be created at some point, probably after the blowhards (oops, I mean Senators) on each of the two committees get to conduct their respective committee hearings. Given that there are probably 15-20 senators who are co-sponsors of both bills I'd say that's pretty likely.