Senate Leader Frist: Stem Cell Research, Human Cloning Vote This Summer

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 25, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Leader Frist: Stem Cell Research, Human Cloning Vote This Summer Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 25, 2006

Washington, DC ( — Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Wednesday reiterated his plans for a summertime debate and vote on bills regarding embryonic stem cell research. The key legislation senators would consider would overturn President Bush’s limits on using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research.

"I am working with a construct to bring [stem cell research bills] back to the floor this summer, which will allow everybody’s views to be expressed," Frist said.

The House approved the measure last May, but the Senate has never taken a vote on it. President Bush has promised to veto the measure and Congress does not have enough votes to override the veto.

Frist indicated that measure would be one of the proposals senators will consider.

Frist spokesperson Amy Call told CQ HealthBeat that the senator "feels it’s very important to have a thoughtful and thorough debate" on stem cell research.

"There is a lot of hope for stem cells," she said, but added "we shouldn’t politicize this and create false expectations [of cures]."

The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, a biotech lobbying group that favors embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, organized an event Wednesday to tout the taxpayer funding bill. The group said it wanted a vote on that measure alone with "no amendments and no alternatives."

However, Frist has previously said he favors a vote on three separate bills dealing with bioethics issues, including the measure overturning Bush’s limits and possibly another which would provide federal funding for new research to try to obtain embryonic stem cells without cloning or destroying days old unborn children.

A third proposal, sponsored by pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, may also receive a vote. The Brownback bill prohibits all forms of human cloning, but some embryonic stem cell research backers oppose the measure because they favor human cloning for research.

A four bill has also been introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, which would allow human cloning for research but prohibit it for reproductive purposes, but that bill hasn’t figured as prominently in First’s previous comments.

Earlier this month, White House spokesman Ken Lisaius indicated the president’s threat to veto the bill still stands, saying "The president’s embryonic stem cell policy serves both science and ethics."

Polls show Americans think adult stem cell research has better promise and oppose using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell studies.

An October 2005 Virginia Commonwealth University poll found 44 percent of Americans said adult stem cell research shows greater promise while just 14 percent said embryonic stem cell research did.

Meanwhile, 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.