Senate Approves Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Bill, Bush to Veto

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 18, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Approves Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Bill, Bush to Veto Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 18, 2006

Washington, DC ( — The Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would overturn President Bush’s limits on using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research. The 63-37 vote for the bill was four votes short of having the two-thirds vote necessary to override an expected presidential veto.

Leading up to the vote, senators continued the second day of an hours-long debate on the pros and cons of both embryonic and adult stem cell research.

Some lawmakers said embryonic stem cell research, which has yet to cure a single patient, was wrong and shouldn’t be funded with federal dollars because it involves the destruction of human life.

"It is immoral to destroy the youngest of human lives for research purposes," pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas said. "It is an age-old human debate, whether you allow the stronger to take advantage of the weaker. We have already regretted doing it in the past; we will regret this, too."

"Just because the budding lives would not survive does not mean that we should ghoulishly conduct experiments on them," pro-life Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, added. "Who knows how many human embryos we will have to destroy before any tangible progress is made?"

But Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, claimed that many of the 400,000 frozen human embryos in existence will be destroyed anyway, so scientists should be able to take those human lives and destroy them for research.

"So you either use these embryos for research that will help cure people of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or you discard them," Harkin said.

Despite the debate, President Bush’s intent on what to do with the bill is clear. Because embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of days-old unborn children, he plans to veto the bill.

White House spokesman Tony Snow, responding to a reporter’s question at a press conference today, said, "The president believes strongly that for the purpose of research it’s inappropriate for the federal government to finance something that many people consider murder. He’s one of them."

Administration officials released a statement Monday affirming President Bush’s decision to veto the bill.

"The bill would compel all American taxpayers to pay for research that relies on the intentional destruction of human embryos for the derivation of stem cells, overturning the president’s policy that funds research without promoting such ongoing destruction,” it said.

Should Bush veto the bill it would be his first veto in either of his terms in office.

Once Bush vetoes the bill, both the House and Senate are expected to hold votes to override it.

The House was more than 50 votes away from a two-thirds vote when it signed off on the embryonic stem cell research funding bill in May 2005, and the Senate four votes down.

President Bush has limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to only those cells that were obtained prior to August 2001, when he announced his policy.

Bush has prohibited funds for new embryonic stem cell research but has spent hundreds of millions of dollars annually on adult stem cell research, which has yielded dozens of treatments for various diseases and conditions.

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: Contact President Bush and encourage him to veto HR 810, the measure that uses federal taxpayer dollars to pay for embryonic stem cell research. You can contact information at

See how your senator voted on the bill.