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Thursday, October 21, 2004  

Politics: Right stops Reeve Act in its tracks

Yesterday, I read an interview of actor and activist Christopher Reeve in the current issue of Reader's Digest. It was a poignant experience since Reeve died before the magazine became available. In the five-page piece, Reeve describes his life nearly a decade after becoming paralyzed. He was looking forward to the airing of his latest project, a movie about a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the age of eleven, who achieves her goal of attending Harvard. He struggled with illness while directing "The Brooke Ellison Story." Reeve said he believed aging was impacting his objective of maintaining a healthy body so that he could benefit from innovations in spinal cord injury research. He was enthusiastic about what he thought was the upcoming easy passage of legislation he advocated by the U.S. Congress. The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act would have set up an integrated infrastructure for providing rehabilitative services to persons living with SCI throughout the country. Reeve pointed out that the Act carefully avoided any reference to embryonic stem cell research, which the far Right, with the help of President George W. Bush, is determined to stymy. ESC research offends the anti-abortion movement. Treading softly didn't matter. A Republican senator has sandbagged the legislation that would be Reeve's legacy.

The L.A. Weekly reports.

L.A. Weekly has learned that, just a day after the actor's death, one or more Republican senators put a surprise hold on the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act. The uncontroversial legislation had been expected to sail through committee and then the Senate as easily as it had the House of Representatives where it passed 418 to zero last week. Monday’s action was beyond cruel; it was like opposing Mom and apple pie.

Congressional sources confirmed to L.A. Weekly Tuesday that the hold was placed on the oft-called 'feel good' legislation from the Republican side of the aisle. Democratic committee members led by Senator Edward Kennedy are trying to find out which Republican senator or senators sandbagged S. 1010. The way the Senate system works, any senator can hold up a bill without accountability because anonymity is assured.

“We’re shocked"a source inside the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation told L.A. Weekly on Tuesday. 'We heard it was because Chris has been too outspoken on the stem-cell issue. That was the trigger.

So it would have passed if Chris hadn't died.'

But the actor's bill had NOTHING to do with stem-cell research. . . .

The Republican senators on the committee considering the legislation are Bill Frist of Tennessee, Chairman Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Christopher Bond of Missourri, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, John Ensign of Nevada, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Warner of Virginia.

No one knows which Republican senator or senators gleefully took the occasion of Reeve's demise to stop the passage of legislation bearing his name. One suspects a rock-ribbed Right Winger with Christian fundamentalist beliefs. The guarantee of anonymity means the person will not have to weather the criticism directed at someone who refuses to show minimal respect for a true American idol.

What's the art?

Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent.

Reasonably related

~ Read the full text of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act at the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation site.

~ Read about the life and death of Christopher Reeve at Silver Rights.

~ On his last day of consciousness, Reeve left a long message of encouragement for presidential candidate John Kerry. His widow, Dana, reminisces.

~ "The Brooke Ellison Story" premieres Monday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. on A&E .

Update: Dana Reeve has joined the Kerry campaign. She will be appearing with the candidate Thursday. The Associated Press has the story.

7:10 AM