Senate Agrees to Vote on Package of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bills

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 29, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Agrees to Vote on Package of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bills Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 29, 2006

Washington, DC ( — The U.S. Senate has come to an agreement on an upcoming vote on a package of three bills covering embryonic stem cell research.

The measures include a vote on overturning President Bush’s limits on funding it and two pro-life measures that would ban "fetal farming" and instruct the federal government to seek alternative methods of obtaining embryonic stem cells that don’t involve the destruction of human life.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced the agreement for the unanimous request late Thursday, but the Senate will not vote on the package of bills until it returns from its Independence Day recess during the week of July 10.

"I’m pleased we can now move forward with a thoughtful debate on this issue," Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said on the Senate floor.

After a meeting last week with former first lady Nancy Reagan, who urged a vote on the measure, Frist pressed for the agreement on the three bill package.

However, pro-life Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, objected to the unanimous consent request for a vote on the package because it contained the funding bill. Later Thursday, he withdrew his objection, allowing the vote to move forward next month.

Leading pro-life Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania also decided to withdraw their objections to voting on the package of bills.

The day’s actions set the stage for a July showdown, but the funding bill’s prospects are grim after that.

President Bush has indicated he will veto the funding bill and White House spokesman Ken Lisaius confirmed on Thursday that the president still intends to veto the bill.

The Senate may have enough votes to override the veto, but the House is far from having enough votes to reverse it.

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, told he fully expect President Bush will hold firm on his commitment to veto the bill and he doesn’t expect the House will come close to overturning the veto.

Pro-life groups object to using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research because human life is destroyed in the process.

However, they support a vote on the three package of bills because the "fetal farming" measure and the encouragement to find embryonic stem cell research alternatives are important.

"We are pleased that Senator Santorum’s ban on human fetus farming is now guaranteed an up-or-down vote," Johnson told "This worthwhile measure would ban gestating a human baby in a woman or in an animal womb and then using the baby’s tissue for research or therapy."

Polls show Americans oppose using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research, which is nowhere close to helping patients. Adult stem cells have provided dozens of cures and treatments.

An International Communications Research poll in mid-May finds 48% of Americans oppose federal funding of stem cell research that requires destroying human embryos. Just 39% support such funding and another 12 percent had no position.

The poll also found that Americans favor stem cell research that does not involve the destruction of human life.

The ICR survey found 57% favored funding only the research avenues that do not harm the donor. Just 24% favored funding all stem cell research, including the type that involves destroying human embryos.

Another 11 percent of those polled didn’t want Congress to fund any kind of stem cell research and 7 percent didn’t have an opinion.

The ICR poll has consistently shown Americans oppose using taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research over the last two years. At its highest levels in August 2004, only 43 percent wanted federal funds used.

ACTION: Please contact your two senators and urge strong opposition to using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research. You can find phone and email contact info for any senator at