Specter Says Senate Could Override Stem Cell Veto

Sponsor of Stem Cell Bill Says Senate Could Override a Veto (NYT | RSS)

Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican and chief sponsor of a bill to expand federal financing for human embryonic stem cell research, issued a stark challenge to President Bush on Wednesday, saying he had enough votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto of the measure. “I don’t like veto threats, and I don’t like statements about overriding veto threats,” Mr. Specter said, speaking at a news conference where the House backers of the measure presented him the legislation, which passed the House on Tuesday, topped with a red bow. “But if a veto threat is going to come from the White House, then the response from the Congress is to override the veto, if we can,” Mr. Specter added. “Last year we had a letter signed by some 58 senators, and we had about 20 more in the wings. I think if it really comes down to a showdown, we will have enough in the United States Senate to override a veto.”

But the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, said the bill, which garnered a majority that fell 52 votes short of the two-thirds majority required to overturn a veto, would “never become law.” And Mr. Bush, appearing at a news conference with the president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, restated his opposition. “I believe that the use of federal monies that end up destroying life is not – is not positive, it’s not good,” Mr. Bush said. “And so, therefore, I’m against the extension of the research, of using more federal dollars on new embryonic stem cell lines.”

Both Specter and DeLay could be right. Although I doubt eleven Republican Senators will cross the aisle on an issue so important to a part of the base, it’s possible. There’s no way there will be two-thirds support in the House, though.

Specter’s attitude here, though, is exactly as the Framers intended. Each branch–and both Houses of Congress–are supposed to jealously guard its powers against perceived encroachment from the others. In reality, party loyalty often trumps institutional prerogative.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. bryan says:

    Of course, the political parties concept wasn’t envisioned by the framers when they set up the system. But I wonder how much of Specter’s sabre-rattling is related to the recent hullabaloo over the filibuster?