In the last 40 years the judiciary has been without question the strongest branch - in California, even the constitution can be overturned by a federal appeals court and can then decide there can be no appeal. That's power, folks.
But now the courts may have enraged the very progressive groups that have been happy with the ultimate power of courts by temporarily halting funding of human embryonic stem cell research, opting to protect a minority rather than the majority of scientists.
Stem cell research has been restricted since 2001, first by the Bush and then by the Obama administrations. We have to give them a break on that since when the restrictions were first issued, the technology was just two years old and after the fringes in science declared that Bush must hate science, despite doubling the NIH budget and boosting NASA funding by 15%, it became a political issue and so Obama was likewise wise to modify the restrictions but not outright lift them. It satisfied both sides of that somewhat silly culture war.
But it seems some researchers believe that modifying the restrictions was just a wink-wink effort by the Obama folks and they were secretly penalizing other forms of research in favor of hESC - well, that is unfair restriction of trade using taxpayer dollars and illegal. So a lawsuit occurred and Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, agreed and stopped funding until the matter is resolved. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), said the decision "has not only rolled back the Obama policy on stem cells, but has actually rolled back the Bush policy."
Well, yes, but that is the problem of a strong judiciary. Now Congress will have to try and pass legislation that would reverse it - which could then be overturned by a higher court anyway.
Even funnier is the congressman's contention that justice should not take its course - the appeals process everyone else must endure is too, he says, because this issue is too important. So first he doesn't like the courts and now he doesn't like the overall Constitution either.
"I don't think we should wait for an appeal," he said. "We've got to act, and act fast."
Says Dr. Bruce Stillman, a renowned cancer researcher and President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, "The judge's decision reverses the policies of two presidents, goes far beyond the debate that we've seen in this country, and sets a standard that is unique in the world. This is now the only country in the world where you cannot do embryonic stem cell research."
Just why CSHL is sticking their nose in is unclear, since they don't do any human embryonic stem cell research, but he's making a call to have all restrictions lifted - basically calling Obama and Democrats to the carpet during a mid-term election, and that is a risky proposition for everyone involved. If Obama stalls Democrats from allowing him to be boxed into an unpopular stand it could damage his standing with an overwhelmingly Democrat constituency. Academics won't suddenly start voting Republican but they won't have the same enthusiasm that allowed them to overlook some of his anti-science positions.
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- Appeals Court Lifts Restrictions On Federal Embryonic Stem Cell Funding
- Are Republicans Against Stem Cell Research?