Senate Still Poised to Vote on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 25, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Still Poised to Vote on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 25, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Despite continued successes using adult stem cells and new researching showing embryonic-like stem cells can be obtained without destroying human life, the U.S. Senate is still planning a September vote on overturning President Bush’s limits on using taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research.

The House has already approved a bill that would overturn the limits and supporters of the Senate version say they have enough votes to pass it there. They may have enough support to override a veto the president has threatened, but the House is nowhere close to being able to override it.

That, and the new research, has prompted some pro-life lawmakers to ask Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who recently flip-flopped on the issue to support federal funding, to put off the vote.

"We should not rush this debate," Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, told the Associated Press. "If we do not rush to kill innocent human life, we will find ethical, moral ways of solving this issue."

But Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who is one of the co-sponsors of the bill to overturn Bush’s limits, says the new research is not enough to dispense with his bill.

"We are right where we always were," Harkin said.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the new revelations about embryonic stem cell research should alter the terms of debate.

"I can’t imagine that it won’t make a difference," he said, adding that the adult stem cell research successes are "something that we all can support."

Scientists at Harvard have found that they can combine embryonic stem cells and adult skin stem cells and produce new embryonic stem cells. If it works long-term researchers may not have to destroy unborn children for the cells.

In addition, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have found cells that function like embryonic stem cells in umbilical cord blood.

Frist’s office confirmed Monday that the slated vote will still take place. Other stem cell research bills could get votes as well, including one to advance adult stem cell research using cells from umbilical cord blood and another, sponsored by Brownback, to ban all forms of human cloning.

Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who backs embryonic stem cell research, said he spoke with President Bush on Monday and he will not back down from his veto threat.

"He said he would have to veto the bill," Hatch told the Associated Press. "He feels like he would have to honor that commitment."

In August 2001, President Bush put in place a policy prohibiting taxpayer funding of any new embryonic stem cell research conducted after that point. Instead, he has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on adult stem cell research, which has already produced dozens of cures and treatments for various diseases.

He has said he would veto any bill overturning that policy and Americans appear to back the president’s position.

A May 2005 poll by International Communications Research, found 52 percent oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research while just 36 percent support it.

In an August 2004 poll conducted by Wilson Research Strategies, 53 percent of respondents said that they opposed “using tax dollars to pay for the kind of stem cell research that requires the killing of human embryos,” while only 38 percent supported it.