Observers Expect Senate to Approve Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Observers Expect Senate to Approve Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 6, 2006

Washington, DC ( — Groups on both sides of the debate over spending tax dollars on embryonic stem cell research say they expect the Senate to approve a House-backed measure that would overturn President Bush’s limits on funding it. If the Senate approves the bill, Bush would be forced to make good on his veto threat.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced that senators reached a unanimous consent agreement to bring up three bills for a debate and vote.

In addition to the funding measure, senators will vote on two bills that enjoy support from the pro-life community.

One would prohibit the practice known as "fetal farming," where human embryos are specifically implanted in a woman’s womb for the sole purpose of killing them days later for their stem cells. The other would call on the National Institutes of Health to look into possible avenues of obtaining embryonic stem cells without destroying human life.

Under the agreement, all three bills require 60 votes to be approved, rather than the normal majority of those voting.

Sean Tipton, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, a group that lobbies for embryonic stem cells research, tells the United Press International he thinks there will be plenty of votes to approve the embryonic funding bill.

"We are confident that we have the votes to pass HR 810, and that is the important thing," he said.

Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who is one of the leading sponsors of the funding measure and worked with Frist to reach the agreement, has also said he thinks the bill will clear the 60 vote hurdle.

If that’s the case, Doug Johnson, the legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, told UPI that President Bush will need to follow through on his veto threat.

"It may well prove to be the case that Specter’s correct," he said. "If he is, it’ll go to the president. The president has made it very clear he will veto."

A veto is good news for pro-life advocates because Congress would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override it. While the Senate may be able to come up with the 67 votes necessary to do that, the House is nowhere close to a veto override majority.

However lawmakers vote on the embryonic stem cell research funding bill, pro-life groups will be there to hold them accountable. In addition to NRLC, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America says her group will place the vote on its scorecard that it sends to the more than 500,000 people who are members of the group.

"It will be something in our voter guide, making people aware of how senators voted on it," she told UPI.

Tipton said his group will not oppose the two other measures, but he pledged to inform embryonic stem cell supporters how senators voted on the funding bill — labeling pro-life lawmakers and unsympathetic towards the plight of patients and the elderly and disabled.

"What we’re going to do is expose anyone who tried to not support H.R. 810 and still argue that they’re pro-patient, pro-research," he said.

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