House expands stem-cell research; bill faces likely veto from Bush
The House on Jan. 11 passed a bipartisan bill expanding federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, although not with enough support to override a likely presidential veto.
TheStemCellResearchEnhancement Act of 2007, which passed by a vote of 253-174, is identical to legislation that President Bush vetoed last summer — an act that the White House on Jan. 11 vowed to repeat.
The measure, which Democrats expect to be approved by the Senate, increases the limited number of embryonicstem-celllineseligibleforfederal funding from the 78 the White House allows under an August 2001 executive order.
Despite the promise of a veto, the new Democratic majority says expandingstem-cellresearchisawinning issue that paints Mr. Bush as extreme.
Backers of the bill say embryonic stem-cell research can be used to developtreatmentsfordiseases,suchas Parkinson’s.SupportersalsosaidJan. 11 that they have other options of expandingstem-cellresearch,including attaching the issue to a “must-pass” bill such as a spending measure.
“We have a moral obligation to provide our scientific community with the tools it needs to save lives,” saidMajorityLeaderStenyH.Hoyer of Maryland.
The bill states that the research would be done under “strict ethical guidelines” and that funding would onlyapplytostem-celllinesfromembryos that “would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics.”
But pro-life members from both parties oppose embryonic stem-cell research, arguing that it destroys life in the process of harvesting the cells. They also said the measure should have been put on hold because of recent research showing that amniotic fluid can be used to produce stem cells without destroying life.
MinorityLeaderJohnA.Boehner of Ohio urged his colleagues to instead study those new methods, saying, “We are going to find out that we are not going to need to destroy human embryos to get the kind of promise that we want.
“I’vegot11brothersandsisters.I’m sure it wasn’t convenient for my mother to have twelve of us, but I’m sure glad that she did,” he said. “Taxpayer funds shouldn’t be used to destroythehumanlife,pureandsimple.”
Researchers at the Wake Forest and Harvard medical schools concluded that stem cells found in amniotic fluid are versatile and available and could have equal benefits to embryonic cells.
However, the measure’s sponsors, Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Republican Rep. Michael N. Castle of Delaware, said theleadscientistwrotealetter,saying the study should not slow down embryonic research.
Stem-cell-research supporters have gained votes since failing to override Mr. Bush’s July veto, the first of his presidency. That vote was 235-193, 55 votes shy of the needed majority.
The Democrats campaigned on a pledgetofundstem-cellresearch,an issue that resonated with the Americanpeopleinpartbecauseoftheadvocacyworkofcelebrities,including actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’sdiseaseandappearedin ads for candidates who supported the research.
Mrs. DeGette cited a poll showing 71percentofAmericanssupportembryonic research and said U.S. researchersare“tethered”byMr.Bush’s six-year-old policy.