CNN Inside Politics - Transcript
Friday, July 29, 2005
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JOHNS: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is certainly not alone in supporting an expansion of federal dollars for embryonic stem cell research. A CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll conducted in May found that a majority of Americans supported easing restrictions on federal funding, or lifting them altogether. 43 percent wanted to keep the restrictions in place or totally eliminate federal funding.
The surprise move by Senator Frist is reigniting debate on the matter. Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, a supporter of stem cell research, will join me later. But with me right now is Republican Senator Sam Brownback. He's opposed, and so opposed, in fact, to embryonic stem cell research, he once compared it to Nazi experiments on prisoners.
Senator Brownback, thanks for joining us.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, (R) KANSAS: Thanks.
JOHNS: Senator Frist made it sound like this is consistent with his previous positions. Do you agree with that?
BROWNBACK: There is some consistency with it from four years ago. He articulated a similar position opposed to human cloning, but saying that we should be able to move forward with some embryonic stem cell research, which we have done. It is federally funded. It is moving forward today.
JOHNS: Now you have said before that you will do everything in your power to stop a bill on embryonic stem cell research like this. Won't this certainly make it a lot harder for you?
BROWNBACK: Well, what we've articulated, and what we've negotiated, is a package of six votes, individual bills, back to back. And let's vote on the whole range of bioethical issues. And the reason that I said that is, I've been trying for four years to get a vote on human cloning, to ban human cloning and have been blocked. I said, so, if we're going to vote on the embryonic stem cell, let's vote on human cloning as well. And with that package, I'm happy to move forward, have the debate.
Let's get a good vote and let's discuss how we're going to treat the human embryo, the young human in this society. We're going to treat it like property? Or will we treat it like a person?
JOHNS: Are you upset with Senator Frist? And do you think this will affect his presidential aspirations if he moves forward on that?
BROWNBACK: Well, I'm disappointed. But he had articulated a similar position in the past. I don't know how it impacts any sort of presidential ambitions he might have. I do think it is important that we have this debate and vote on what do you think the young human embryo is. And that's why we put forward this package of votes that I think would be important to have and discuss with the American public.
JOHNS: And speaking of presidential ambitions, it's been said that you might consider running for the White House yourself. What is the status of that?
BROWNBACK: Well, I'm looking at it. I'm traveling to some of the early primary states. No final decisions have been made. That is something that is yet to be seen.
JOHNS: Now, you met with Judge Roberts -- Judge John Roberts, who's been nominated now for the Supreme Court. Tell me a little bit about that conversation. You've been quoted as saying -- you spoke to him a bit about the book of wisdom and the Bible. And what was his response?
BROWNBACK: Well, we talked about a lot of things. We talked about our children. We both have young children. We talked about a view of the law and a view of the courts, which I found comforting. His discussion about the court as the umpire and it's troubling when umpire is the most watched person on the field, which is what's taking place today. People watch the court more than anybody else, and it should really be the one that says whether things are in bounds or out of bounds.
But we had a good discussion. He's a brilliant man. I want to still see how he answers questions in committee before I decide how I'm going to vote on the nomination.
JOHNS: Now, that's what I also wanted to ask you about. You've said that you wanted to trust but verify on the judge. What is it that suggests you might not vote for him for the Supreme Court?
BROWNBACK: I don't know that there's anything that would suggest that, other than that the paper trail behind him, the number of decisions that he has articulated, is thin. We don't know where he is on a number of various issues, and we're not going to know through this process, because that would call on him to pre-judge the case.
But what I think we can know and should know is his view of the role of the courts in America today and the view of the Constitution. Is it a living document that kind of moves with the changing times? Or is it a set text document that has to be amended to change? And I think those are things he can answer, should answer, and will help me in my decision-making.
JOHNS: And I've got to ask you, is that a litmus test, the issue of how he views the Constitution, in your view?
BROWNBACK: Well, I think it's an appropriate question for anybody to ask somebody that seeks to go on the Supreme Court and interpret the basic law document of the country. How do you view this document? I wouldn't consider it a litmus test, I'd consider it a very basic discussion about are we a rule of law, a nation that believes in the written text? Or are we a rule of man, that, if any five people agree on it, then sit on the Supreme Court, it changes. That's a very basic issue for us in this society.
JOHNS: Senator Sam Brownback, thanks so much. Have a good break, and we'll see you in the fall.
BROWNBACK: Thanks, Joe.
JOHNS: You bet.
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