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Special Report

Party Politics

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," July 29, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: A dramatic announcement Friday from Senate Major ity Leader Bill Frist that he is breaking with President Bush over stem cells and will now support federal funding for research using surplus embryos in fertility clinics.

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is one of the key supporters of a bill in the Senate that would do just that. Senator Hatch, who joins us now from Capitol Hill, is also a member of the Judiciary Committee, which is trying to work out final arrangements for a confirmation vote on John Roberts for the Supreme Court. Senator Hatch thanks for joining us sir.

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH, R-UTAH: OK, nice to be with you.

ANGLE: Let me ask you first about Senator Frist's announcement Friday. It was a fairly dramatic move. Senator Specter called it an earthquake. What do you believe the impact will be on the debate in the Senate?

HATCH: Well, I think tremendous, you know. Senator Frist is a very serious doctor, noted heart surgeon, spends his off-season, you know, in August and other off times doing operations over in Africa among the poor people and so forth.

He's a terrific scientist and frankly by coming out and doing this as majority leader of the United States Senate what he's saying is we need to rethink this down at the White House. They've actually had some bad advice in some ways and frankly we're progressing on this. We're going to go ahead.

Embryonic stem cell research, along with adult stem cell research, cord blood research has the greatest promise in the history of this world to maybe find treatments or cures for these tremendously dreaded maladies that 110 million in this country suffer from.

ANGLE: Now, as I understand it under the bill you support, only embryos that were going to be thrown away, they were going to be discarded could be used for stem cell research. The president opposes that. Have you talked to President Bush about this and, if so, what does he say to you?

HATCH: Well, I chatted with him a long time ago just briefly about it and he was open-minded and willing to look at it. But I think he's had some advice that has not been as accurate or good as it should be.

I know he has an open mind and he's the first president to allow the research to go forward by NIH but he thought there were 77 embryonic stem cell lines that could be utilized. None of those lines is utilizable because they've all been adulterated with feeder cells.

So, I'm hopeful the president will reassess, reevaluate and I think Senator Frist's announcement today kind of mandates that and a lot of people are really thinking this through now. It's a very, very important part of healthcare and holds out, like I say, the greatest promise you can possibly have.

The best way to promote life is to care for the living and do what you can to alleviate pain and disease and this holds out some of the greatest promise in the history of the world on medicine and biologics.

ANGLE: Well, now this passed in the House but not by a veto-proof margin and the president has threatened to veto it. Do you think you can make enough headway in the Senate to get this passed and in a way that would discourage a veto?

HATCH: Well, I think we can pass it. We, I think, have had the 60 votes that are necessary to pass it. With Senator Frist onboard hopefully that will become an easier thing to do and hopefully we can get the 67 votes to override a veto.

The president is very sincere. I know that he'll look at it carefully and if he'll give us an opportunity, we'll try and explain why we think there's a need for a change in ideas down there.

ANGLE: OK. Let me switch to the Supreme Court if I may. We just have a little more than a minute left. Are you now confident — there were negotiations all day Friday over the timetable here and Democrats are still seeking some additional documents — are you now confident that there will be a vote on John Roberts nomination in time for him to take a seat on the court when it reconvenes in early October?

HATCH: Well, that's what the chairman wants to do and the chairman controls that process. And, thus far, we haven't had great success in putting together an agreement, although they thought they had one Thursday but apparently it blew up according to the chairman and ranking member I chatted with.

Now, Senator Specter is about to hold a press conference and I'll be as interested as anybody in what he finally decides to do. But we really do need to go ahead with the hearings and they do need to be completed and they can be completed before the end of September and the markup could be completed before the end of September and certainly a vote can be done before the end of September.

But there's some indication the Democrats are going to try and drag this out. They're going to try and prolong it and get it passed the first Monday in October and that would be indeed a tragedy.

It would be, I think, inexplicable. I don't see how they could justify that type of treatment of somebody with the qualifications that John Roberts has. My gosh, if you ask any member of the Supreme Court who is the best fellow to advocate and they'd certainly come up with his name.

ANGLE: Senator Orrin Hatch, thank you very much, sir. We appreciate your time.

HATCH: You bet, nice to be with you.

ANGLE: Thank you.

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