Rove: Bush to veto DeGette bill

By John Aloysius Farrell
Post Washington Bureau Chief

President Bush will likely cast the first veto of his presidency if the Senate, as expected, passes legislation to expand federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, White House aide Karl Rove said today.

"The president is emphatic about this," Rove said in a meeting with the editorial board of The Denver Post.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, and Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del. If the Senate approves the bill this month it would go to the president's desk.

"It is something we would, frankly, like to avoid," Rove said, when asked if the White House would welcome, or dread, vetoing legislation passed by a Republican Congress, especially on so emotional an issue as embryonic stem cell research.

But Rove said that he believes the legislation will pass the Senate with more than 60 votes this month, "and as a result the president would, as he has previously said emphatically, veto the Castle bill."

The legislation is not likely to become law, Rove said, because there are not enough votes in the House and Senate to override Bush's veto.

"I am confident that the president's veto will be easily sustained if it comes to that," Rove said.

"We were all an embryo at one point, and we ought to as a society be very careful about being callous about the wanton destruction of embryos, of life," Rove said. Recent research, he said, shows "we have far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells."

The Bush administration's policy, adopted in 2001, has been to allow federal funding only for existing lines of embryonic stem cells. Researchers and patients groups have complained that the policy hinders vital research.

Rove came to Colorado to speak Sunday at an Aspen Institute forum and to attend a GOP political event tonight in Parker.

On another volatile issue - congressional attempts to reform the nation's immigration system - Rove raised no strong objections to several elements of a potential legislative compromise that have been floated in Washington.

Rove said that immigration legislation had to be "comprehensive" to win Bush's support, but that more controversial elements like a temporary worker program could be phased in as the U.S. improves its border security.

Rove was also receptive to proposals by some congressional Republicans to establish checkpoints at ports of entry to the United States, where existing illegal immigrants would have to go, register, pay a penalty and show proof of employment.

Rove said that such checkpoints didn't necessarily have to be on foreign soil, but could be located at airports in Denver or Los Angeles, for example, or at ports of entry like the port of New Orleans.

Comprehensive reform is needed because illegal immigrants will inevitably find ways to enter the United States, so long as wages are so high here when compared to other countries.

"You cannot control the border. ... We don't have enough resources," he said. "You've got to do it all together."

Rove said that he advises GOP candidates to back the president's comprehensive approach, despite the fierce opposition of hard-liners within the Republican Party.

"I tell Republicans," said Rove, "I cannot see a single district in which a Republican is going to be advantaged by opposing a comprehensive solution."