Senate Still Primed for Fierce Embryonic Stem Cell Research Debate

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 2, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Still Primed for Fierce Embryonic Stem Cell Research Debate Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 2, 2006

Washington, DC ( — The Senate is primed and ready for what will likely be an intense debate on the issue of embryonic stem cell research. The House has already approved a bill that would overturn President Bush’s limits of using taxpayer dollars to fund the destructive research and the Senate could vote in May or June before it has its summer recess.

Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Orrin Hatch of Utah are leading the push for a vote on their legislation to use tax dollars for the research that has no come anywhere close to helping people.

The pair told McClatchy Newspapers they think they have enough votes to get their legislation approved. The duo also thinks Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will push for more votes for their bill.

"I’ve talked to Senator Frist about it as recently as last week. He’s prepared to go ahead," Specter said.

Hatch went further and added, "Now is the right time. He has to bring it up, or we’ll bring it up."

Some political observers say they may face pressure from other Republican lawmakers to hold off on the vote because Democrats will likely use the results against pro-life Republicans who vote against the bill and are running for re-election this November.

Pro-life groups will be watching the vote closely, if and when it happens, and say that any senators who oppose abortion but vote for destroying human life through embryonic stem cell research will lose support from the pro-life community.

Amanda Banks, with the lobbying branch of Focus on the Family, told the Scripps Howard News Service, "If members who are otherwise pro-life vote in favor of life-destructive stem cell research, they will no longer be pro-life in our view."

"It’s a wedge issue, in that it separates the true pro-lifers from the compromisers," Banks said. "Whenever the vote comes, whether it’s this year, next year or a later date, we’ll be very attentive. If it is voted upon before the election, I think it will be a top-tier issue in the ’06 elections."

The House has already voted for its version of the bill on a 238-194 margin. President Bush has promised to veto and measure that reaches his desks which overturns his limits on spending taxpayer dollars to destroy human life in new embryonic stem cell research.

The recent scandal over the controversial research in South Korea could play a role in how some lawmakers vote. The team of scientists sparked international outrage after they were found to have falsified embryonic stem cell research supposedly showing major progress it has yet to achieve.

Frist told Bloomberg News last month that he’s trying to figure out how to allows votes on competing bills that would either overturn Bush’s limits or prohibit all forms of human cloning without having the debate become "a wedge issue that divides Republicans."

Frist said he wants "to be able to consider a range of bills and amendments” during any bioethics debate.

Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback, a leading pro-life lawmaker, said he thinks he has enough votes to uphold a filibuster against a bill to overturn Bush’s limits.

"These are the ones you just have to state a truth and stand by it,” he told Bloomberg News. "It’s human life. And I mean, that has to be stood up for.”

Polls show Americans join scientists who say the use of adult stem cells should give patients more hope and they oppose using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research.

An October 2005 Virginia Commonwealth University found that, when asked which type of stem cell research shows the greatest promise, 44 percent named adult stem cells, just 14 percent said embryonic stem cell research held the greatest promise and only 7 percent said both types hold equal promise.

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.