WASHINGTON -- President Bush, at the national Catholic prayer breakfast, stressed his opposition to easing restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem-cell research, a reference to a bill he's threatened to veto.
"In our day there is a temptation to manipulate life in ways that do not respect the humanity of the person," Bush said Friday. "When that happens, the most vulnerable among us can be valued for their utility to others instead of their own inherent worth."
The Senate on Wednesday voted 63-34 to pass the measure that it hopes will lead to new medical treatments. The vote, however, fell short of a veto-proof margin needed to enact the law over Bush's objections. The House, which passed similar legislation earlier in the year, is expected to adopt the Senate's version in the weeks ahead.
"We must continue to work for a culture of life where the strong protect the weak and where we recognize in every human life the image of our creator," Bush said.
His brief speech also included a call to Congress to pass immigration changes, a prayer for U.S. troops serving abroad and praise for Catholic schools across America. Later Friday, Bush met with parochial education leaders and parents at the White House.
Surrounded by students and teachers from Catholic schools, the president pushed his proposal to allow low-income students in failing public schools to get government scholarships to attend private schools. These vouchers are vehemently opposed by Democrats. The District of Columbia has a pilot program, the nation's first and only federally funded voucher program.
"A parental choice is a very important part of educational excellence," Bush said. "And one way to make sure that that's the case is not only to fully fund the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship, but to provide these kinds of scholarships for school systems outside of Washington."
The prayer breakfast at a Washington hotel attracted religious leaders, members of Congress, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito and top government officials. After the president spoke, a female heckler shouted "War criminal! War criminal!" It was unclear whether the president heard her.
Bush, a Methodist, noted that this year's prayer breakfast occurred the Friday after Lent.
"You can eat your bacon in good conscience," he joked.