State: DeGette, stem cell supporters to protest Bush visit

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— Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and other embryonic stem cell research supporters plan to greet President Bush in Denver Friday with a rally protesting his veto this week of a bill that would expand federal funding for the research.

Bush is attending a $1,000-a-plate dinner for Republican 7th Congressional District candidate Rick O'Donnell, just days after using his first-ever veto to kill the stem cell bill DeGette sponsored with Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del.

"He's going to get the message that he made a mistake vetoing a bill that would help 110 million Americans and their families," DeGette said in an interview. "I think the White House's strategy was to sweep this under the rug by pushing it through this week. But the message we're sending the president is we're not going to let him."

Bush vetoed DeGette's bill Wednesday, a day after it passed the Senate. The bill, which passed the House last year, would allow federal funds to be used in research on embryos derived from fertility treatments that would otherwise be discarded.

Supporters, who include former first lady Nancy Reagan, say the research could lead to cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer and Parkinson's.

But it also destroys the embryo, considered life by some opponents.

When asked whether DeGette's rally would have any effect on Bush's opinion, White House spokesman Blair Jones said, "The president's position is clear."

Bush in 2001 restricted government funding of the research. "DeGette's bill would take our country down the path of destroying life in name of science," Jones said.

DeGette and others hope that highlighting O'Donnell's position on funding for stem cell research will give Democrats an edge in the hotly contested suburban Denver race. They plan to use Bush's visit to draw attention to O'Donnell's opposition to the research.

O'Donnell's campaign manager K.C. Jones said he does not support using more federal funds for stem cell research. But she added that she does not believe many voters will make up their minds about the candidates based on the issue.

"I know they're trying to make this a wedge issue," Jones said. "This election is going to be about local issues ... that's what Rick's talking about."

DeGette's rally will be held at 11:30 a.m. at the First Universalist Church of Denver and will include other anti-Bush protesters as well.

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