That was quick.
A day after blocking several bills that would increase federal funding for stem cell research, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) abruptly flip-flopped, and now says he advocates such funding.
"It's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science," Frist said on the floor of the Senate this morning.
Frist, a heart-lung transplant surgeon who opposes abortion, said modifying Bush's strict limitations on stem cell research would lead to scientific advances and "bridge the moral and ethical differences" that have made the issue politically charged.
"While human embryonic stem cell research is still at a very early stage, the limitation put into place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases," the Tennessee lawmaker said in his speech.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who is fighting cancer, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Frist's talk "perhaps the most important speech made on the floor this year, and perhaps the most important speech made in many years. ... It has an enormous impact."
The chief House sponsor of the bill, Representative Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, told the New York Times: "His support is of huge significance."
Bush has threatened to veto legislation for expanded financial support for stem cell research. A bill to finance more stem cell research has passed the House, but has been stalled in the Senate. Frist's support could push it closer to passage and set up a confrontation with Bush.
Most mainsteam media, in reporting on Frist's speech this morning, failed to point out yesterday's events.
Of the handful of articles I checked reporting on Frist's speech, only the Boston Globe seemed aware of yesterday's events.
"As recently as yesterday morning, Frist rebuffed Democrats' attempts to force an immediate vote on the House-approved bill, saying he would allow such a vote only after reaching an agreement to bring up a range of other measures that are related to stem cell research. That drew a harsh rebuke from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has been consistently lobbying Frist to change his mind and support the bill," the Globe reported.