Senate Votes on Stem Cell Research Running Into Problems

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 20, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 20, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is having a difficult time getting members of the Senate to reach a consensus on what bills to bring up for a vote on the issue of stem cell research. He faces intense lobbying from both sides.

On one hand, pro-life lawmakers want Frist to allow a vote on an adult stem cell research bill that was almost unanimously approved in the House and would allow the create of a national stem cell bank for umbilical cord blood.

They say only adult stem cell research has shown promise to cure diseases and they point to the dozens of treatments such cells have already produced.

On the other hand, some senators want Frist to allow a vote on a bill that would overturn President Bush’s limits on using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of human life to gather cells.

Other bills that could be on the table include a measure banning all forms of human cloning and a fourth that would call for federal funds to investigate alternate methods of obtaining embryonic stem cells that don’t require killing human embryos.

Frist held a meeting late Tuesday to address the situation and left without any agreement.

"Senator Frist is riding two horses in the circus," Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith told the Washington Times. Smith said Frist was juggling the desires of his colleagues on both sides, concerns from President Bush, and his own convictions.

"I guess that’s three horses," Smith clarified.

Last week, Frist suggested that members of the Senate vote on all of the bills pertaining to stem cell research but the top Republican was not able to get all of the members of his party to agree to that, not to mention getting Democrats on board.

The lack of a deal on what bills to bring up may push supporters of the embryonic stem cell research funding bill to add their measure to another piece of legislation. Whether it passes through the Senate or not, President Bush has promised a veto and the House is far from having enough votes to override it.

Pro-life groups tell the Washington Times that they will insist on a vote on the human cloning ban if one is given to the embryonic funding measure.

"If they want an up-or-down vote … then we would like a vote on the human cloning ban," David Christensen, director of congressional affairs for the Family Research Council, said.

Lanier Swann, director of government relations at Concerned Women for America, agreed saying, "A cloning vote in the Senate — we’ve been waiting for that for a long time."

But what will happen is anyone’s guess.

"Neither side wants the other to pass anything," Smith told AP and Arlen Specter, a lead sponsor of the embryonic funding bill, said he didn’t think many bills would pass without both sides reaching a compromise.

Bush’s nomination of appeals court Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court may also complicate matters as it will take away from the time senators have to iron out an agreement on the stem cell research bills and put more pressure on Frist and Specter.