by Steven Ertelt
March 8, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist allowed votes on a bill providing federal funds for an umbilical cord blood bank, he promised a vote soon to backers of bills banning human cloning and mandating taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Both sides are ready to cash in on that promise.
Supporters of using federal funds for the controversial research are preparing to launch media campaigns to raise its profile. The hope to pressure Frist to agree to hold a vote soon on their measure.
Sens. Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch, both Republicans, the lead sponsors of the embryonic stem cell research measure held regular strategy sessions on their bill last summer when they thought a vote was imminent. According to a report in The Hill, a leading Congressional newspaper, they plan to resume those frequent meetings.
The House last May approved the measure, which would overturn President Bush’s limits on using taxpayer funds for the research because it destroys human life. Bush has vowed to veto the measure should the Senate sign off on it.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, The Hill reports, has called on Frist to hold a vote in Congress on May 25, the anniversary of last year’s House vote.
Reid said the legislation could result in "medical breakthroughs that would benefit hundreds of millions of people" but what remains to be seen is how the embryonic stem cell research scandal in South Korea will affect the debate.
That internationally heralded scientists fabricated studies supposedly showing major advances in the research may affect how a handful of senators vote on the matter.
Meanwhile, pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is hoping to have a vote on his bill that would ban all forms of human cloning.
Complicating Frist’s decision on how to proceed with debate and votes, other lawmakers have introduced other bioethics bills with pro-life Sen. Tom Coburn putting forward a measure allowing federal funding of experimental types of embryonic stem cell research that may not involve the destruction of human life.
Representatives of Coburn and Brownback told The Hill they did not expect votes on any of the stem cell research bills by May.