Last month I argued the path to stem cells lies through Missouri. The election results there would decide whether we would be able to override Bush's veto on stem cell research.
We won both the important votes there. Missourians are sending Claire McCaskill to the Senate armed with a strongly pro-research agenda and they amended their Constitution to guarantee protection of stem cell research. Not only does McCaskill's victory bring us one vote closer to an override in the Senate -- it sends a signal to Republicans that if they don't support stem cell research, they will be replaced by Democrats who do.
2007 is the year when Republicans in Congress will have to choose between joining the bipartisan majority that wants to fund stem cell research as the American public demands, or abandoning bipartisanship and joining Bush in blocking key medical cures and keeping on playing politics with science.
Our fight is still uphill. In the Senate, we needed four more votes. We picked up pro-research seats in Missouri, Montana, Ohio, and Virginia, but we lost one in Tennessee (where pro-research Frist is replaced by anti-research Corker). That leaves us one vote shy of an override.
We're going to have to ask Senator-elect Bob Casey to reconsider whether he thinks embryos that are going to die anyway are equal to grandparents with Alzheimer's and children with diabetes. Democrats and his fellow Pennsylvanian Arlen Specter ought to talk with him honestly and frequently about this issue.
Similar conversations should be held with John Sununu, who faces re-election in 2008 and is one of the vanishing New England Republicans. (Norm Coleman and John Cornyn are also up for re-election in 2008 and come from states where the other Senator is pro-research.)
In the House, by my most recent count about 16 anti-research Republicans have been replaced with Democrats (the arithmetic is fuzzy: the anti-research Bonilla in TX-23 may yet lose his seat, also I'm presuming most of the 16 new Democrats will be pro-research). In any case we still need about 30 more House votes for an override.
Flipping 30 anti-research votes in the House is possible. Going from democraticavenger's excellent 2008 House targeting list, I see 23 anti-research Representatives who received less than 55% of their vote, 12 more anti-research Representatives from districts where Kerry got at least 45% of the vote, and another 4 Representatives who may be in trouble for other reasons.
That gives us 39 "targeted for '08" Representatives whose anti-research votes we may flip. They can see that blocking stem cell research is a lost cause politically -- Americans support it, the votes have been there in Congress for years, and Bush will not be in office forever (although it may seem that way). They can join the bipartisan majority and support research or they can further risk their seats and stall research just 2 more years.
For too long "being bipartisan" has meant "Democrats enabling Bush." It is time to make clear that embracing Bush, on either side of the aisle, means giving the finger to bipartisanship -- embracing Bush just means more blocked votes, more failures by the extreme right, and more ignoring of the popular desires of the American mainstream.
What being bipartisan really means is rejecting Bush and joining the bipartisan majority that supports stem cell research. Former red-state Missouri has shown that support for research transcends political boundaries. Nancy Pelosi intends to bring a stem cell research bill in the first 100 hours of her term as Speaker. It is time to ask Republicans in Congress to stop playing politics with science, to reject Bush and to embrace bipartisanship, and to support stem cell research by overriding the President's veto.