Senate May Delay Embryonic Stem Cell Research Vote Until 2006

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

Senate May Delay Embryonic Stem Cell Research Vote Until 2006

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 20, 2005

Washington, DC ( — The Senate had been expected to vote this fall on several bills that address stem cell research, but any votes on the controversial issue may be delayed until next year. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has put forward a proposal that would put off voting on a measure that some lawmakers hope will overturn President Bush’s limits on taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.

The House already approved the measure, though without a veto-proof margin. President Bush has promised to make the bill the subject of his first veto if the Senate sends it to him.

If Frist delays a vote, there is a chance Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is a lead sponsor of the measure, could attempt to attach his bill to a federal spending measure as an amendment.

Under Frist’s proposal, Specter would not do that in exchange for agreeing to a specific date in 2006 on which to have a vote.

Frist previously said he would allow a vote on the measure by the end of the year, and some advocates of embryonic stem cell research hope the vote won’t be delayed. However, Frist says the Senate is busy with several other contentious issues such as hurricane relief, approving spending bills and the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers.

"The problem is, when do you get the floor time," Specter told the Associated Press, seemingly understanding Frist’s situation.

Another proponent of spending taxpayer money on the unproven research, Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said he wouldn’t mind the arrangement Frist seeks.

"I could live with that," he told AP. "But it’s important to have a date certain."

When asked on Tuesday about the measure’s prospects for 2005, Frist responded, "I just don’t know," according to a Congressional Daily report.

Whenever the bill comes up for a vote, pro-life groups plan to strongly oppose it and to urge pro-life lawmakers to engage in a filibuster to prevent its passage. They point to the fact that embryonic stem cell research has not cured any patients while the use of adult stem cells can treat dozens of diseases and conditions.

A bill to establish a national umbilical cord stem cell bank is also awaiting a vote.