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Hopes Daschled

Cloning | Majority leader breaks commitment, will not permit open debate on cloning ban

Issue: "NEA: School bully," June 22, 2002

Looks like the fix is in on Sen. Sam Brownback's (R-Kan.) legislation to ban human cloning. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) last year had promised a straight-up debate on the matter.

That was then, and this is now.

"It is clear," said an angry Sen. Brownback, "that on the issue of cloning, the objective of the Senate Democrat majority is to obstruct the will of the vast majority of the American people, a bipartisan majority in the House, and the president."

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Sen. Daschle insisted on procedural gimmicks that would heavily favor a bill by Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would ban reproductive cloning, but allow cloned embryos to be produced and destroyed for research-a practice known as "therapeutic cloning." A vote was planned for June 18. Sen. Brownback withdrew from the Daschle plan, and it appeared he would not get his day on the floor to present his bill.

Cloning foes point to a May Gallup poll that found 90 percent of respondents opposed reproductive cloning, and 61 percent opposed "cloning of human embryos for use in medical research." The House passed a cloning ban nearly identical to the Brownback bill a year ago by a 100-plus-vote margin. President Bush reiterated his stance the day before the Daschle promise collapsed, when he said via satellite to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis: "Our children are gifts to be loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured."

National Right to Life Committee's Douglas Johnson said bluntly: "Daschle wants something that looks like a ban, but would actually mandate federal law enforcement to take up the job of making sure every cloned human embryo ends up dead." Now Sen. Brownback will have to try to attach his ban as an amendment to other legislation, and Mr. Johnson says "when you offer nongermane amendments to bills, Senate Democrats have been very cohesive" in refusing them.

Administration spokesmen have also expressed doubts about how pro-cloning proposals would be enforced. In congressional testimony, assistant attorney general Daniel Bryant said while enforcing a cloning ban is straightforward, a Specter-Feinstein law would put law enforcement in the position of having to impose "new and unprecedented scrutiny" over fertility clinics and research facilities to ensure only fertilized embryos were transferred to women who wanted to be mothers. Even then, Mr. Bryant said, law-enforcement agents may be unable to tell whether illegal embryo implantations were taking place "even if they were present and observing the activity firsthand." Asked about the legal ambiguity, Sen. Specter simply replied, "law enforcement can handle it."

Too bad the senators can't handle a free and fair debate.

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