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Stem Cell Decision Due During President's August Vacation

President Bush spoke today of his tax-cut and other agenda successes as he prepared to leave the White House for a vacation at his ranch in Texas.

During his time away, Mr. Bush intends to make one of the toughest decisions of his presidency.

CBS News has been told the president will announce his decision on federal funding for stem cell research during his month-long August vacation. He says that he’s still consulting with authorities in science and ethics, but he promised today that he’ll have a decision before Congress returns in September.

"I'll make up my mind here and I'll let everybody know what the decision is. I've still got some more deliberations to do," promised Bush.

But either way, a lot of people are going to be unhappy. During the campaign, and as recently as May 18th in a letter, President Bush said that he opposes federal funding for stem cell research that involves destroying living human embryos.

"For him to go back on that promise now, to rule against his conservative base, is not an easy thing to do," said Thomas Mann, a noted expert on Congress.

But there is tremendous pressure to support research using frozen embryos that would likely otherwise be destroyed. Researchers hope to find treatments for a host of diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and prominent Republicans from senators Hatch and First to former first lady Nancy Regan have urged President Bush to approve it.

On the other hand, President Bush has been courting the Catholic vote, and the pope surprised him with a public reminder that the church believes destruction of embryos for research is evil.

From a political perspective, analysts believe that the president needs to appear moderate.

"If he hopes to be reelected in 2004, his problem will be in the center with swing voters," commented Mann.

The president’s staff claims that if he thought this was a political decision, he’d have made it long ago. They insist he sees it as moral, a question of conscience, and will explain that when he makes his announcement.

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