House Fails to Override Bush Veto of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 19, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Fails to Override Bush Veto of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 19, 2006

Washington, DC ( — The House of Representatives failed to override President Bush’s veto of a bill that would spend taxpayer funds on embryonic stem cell research. With the failed vote, the bill is dead for the session and the U.S. government will continue to focus spending funds on adult stem cell research, which has yielded dozens of treatments for patients.

The House voted 235-193 in favor of overriding the veto, but the vote was 65 short of the two-thirds necessary to override it.

Some 51 Republicans and 183 Democrats voted to override while 179 Republicans and 14 Democrats voted against it.

During the debate leading up to the vote, Rep. Diane DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, accused President Bush of snuffing out "the candle of hope for 110 million Americans suffering from diseases."

But pro-life Rep. Roger Wicker told lawmakers, "The choice is not between conducting stem cell research or not conducting stem cell research."

"Embryonic stem cell research is legal in America and nothing in the administration policy affects that. Indeed, the federal government spent $400 million last year on stem cell research," Wicker explained.

He added that a majority of the private funding is going to adult and germ cell research "because that’s where the promise is now."

Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican, agreed and said the debate in Congress was not about whether to help patients or not through embryonic stem cell research.

"What we are debating is who should pay for it — taxpayers or private researchers," she explained.

Before the president’s veto, a leading stem cell research scientist said the veto doesn’t shatter the hope that science can proceed. He indicated that there are better alternatives that are available that offer more hope for patients for cures than embryonic stem cells.

Francisco Silva, the lead stem cell researcher at PrimeCell Therapeutics, a California biotech firm, said, "While all stem cell research is important, a presidential veto would not mean the end of the promise that stem cells show."

"Hope for effective therapies also lies in the alternatives — specifically in the therapeutic reprogramming of the germ line," he explained.

Thanks to new research, there is now a possibility of deriving adult human pluripotent stem cells that do not involve the use of human eggs and/or embryos, Silva explained. These cells are not hampered by the ethical hurdles and scientific challenges that embryonic stem cells face, putting them on a faster track to therapeutic applications.

"Achieving pluripotency in adult stem cells offers a solution that can elevate us out of the political morass and move us faster toward therapies that cure," Silva said.

Embryonic stem cell research has not only yet to cure a single human patient, but it has never been tried on humans because of failures in animal testing.

On the other hand, adult stem cells have already produced 70 cures or treatments for various conditions including various cancers such as breast cancer, lymphomas, leukemia, arthritis, heart damage, Parkinsons, Sickle Cell Anemia and other disorders.

The most recent poll on the subject, conducted by International Communications Research 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 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.