WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Tommy Thompson to lead the Department of Health and Human Services amid praise for his efforts at overhauling the welfare system.
"The qualities that have made Governor Thompson so successful in Wisconsin are also what makes him an ideal choice to lead this important department," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. "He will bring a wealth of knowledge ... and an innovative style to the national debate on welfare reform."
Thompson has been recognized nationally for his welfare efforts in his home state of Wisconsin. His nomination got support from Democrats, who said they think he'll do well even if they oppose some of his views on abortion and welfare.
One question Thompson will have a say in as secretary is whether federal money can be used for stem cell research, which shows promise in the treatment of catastrophic diseases such as Alzheimer's. Because major stem cell research is done on discarded embryos, the research enrages anti-abortion activists. President Bush, who opposes abortion, also opposes federally funded stem cell research.
Thompson has not taken a position on the issue, but he praised University of Wisconsin researcher James Thomson as a "bold pioneer" for "groundbreaking developments" in stem cell research.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin Right to Life executive director Barbara Lyons said she expects that Thompson's "position will be very positive on this issue," and he also will uphold Bush's views on abortion.
A Milwaukee spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, Lisa Boyce, said Thompson's views are uncertain. "It's really difficult to see what he's going to bring to this position because he's not a spokesperson on reproduction rights in either capacity," Boyce said.
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