Senate Probably Won’t Vote on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Probably Won’t Vote on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Bill

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 12, 2004

Washington, DC ( — The Senate will likely not vote on legislation that would overturn a Bush administration policy preventing taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who largely controls the Senate agenda, said Monday that a vote probably won’t occur until after the presidential elections.

Frist, a Tennessee Republican, told reporters at a National Press Club gathering that embryonic stem cell research is a volatile issue and it needs more time to be studied outside of the partisan election atmosphere.

"It becomes a very political issue very quickly because it gets into abortion issues,” Frist said. "In the middle of a campaign, in a very narrowly divided Senate, I don’t think we could do it justice.”

Frist also was concerned that advocates of the unproven embryonic research are promising miracle cures that may not happen.

"There is a huge disservice going on today in the overpromising of research,” Frist said Monday.

Orrin Hatch, a normally pro-life senator who is backing the legislation to overturn Bush’s policy, says advocates of the destructive research have the 60 votes they need to end a filibuster and take a vote on the bill.

Last month, a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said the leader of the House of Representatives didn’t think the pro-funding legislation would come up for a vote.

"I don’t think that it will come up as a freestanding bill. It divides our caucus. We’re into unity, not division," John Feehery told the Boston Globe newspaper.

Though it appears members of Congress will not vote on the embryonic stem cell research funding issue this year, pro-life leaders encourage activists to make their views known.

"It is important for pro-life citizens to tell their federal representatives that they support President Bush’s policy against funding research that requires the killing of human embryos," Douglas Johnson of National Right to Life, told

In August 2001, President Bush announced a policy preventing the use of federal funds from the Health and Human Services Department for any new embryonic stem cell research.

The move delighted pro-life advocates, but upset some scientists who said the few embryonic stem cells obtain to that date were mostly contaminated with animal cells and not useful.

In May, 58 Senators and 206 Representatives, representing both parties, signed letters encouraging President Bush to reverse his policy against federal funding.

However, a Bush spokesman said the president wouldn’t compromise on the issue because Bush "is committed to expanding our country’s proud record in scientific achievements while upholding the highest standards of ethics."

Bush-Cheney ’04 spokeswoman Sharon Castillo told, that President Bush "believes that we must achieve a balance between medical research and the ability to build a culture of life and respect for human dignity."

The House bill, sponsored by Republican Michael Castle of Delaware and Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, is designed to reverse President Bush’s policy.

Under the legislation, the Department of Health and Human Services would be required to fund the extraction of stem cells derived from "excess" embryos created for fertility treatment purposes.

Related web sites:
Members who signed the letter to Bush –
Do No Harm –