Bill to Expand Obama’s Embryonic Stem Cell Funding Appears Dead

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 2, 2010   |   12:02PM   |   Washington, DC

It appears Congress will not likely pass a bill that had pro-life groups concerned because it would expandthe decision of President Barack Obama to force Americans to pay for embryonic stem cell research.

Thanks to the significant gains the pro-life movement made in the November elections, the compressed lame duck legislative agenda and the commitment Senate Republicans have made to a filibustering any legislation without a deal on tax cuts in place, the bills look like they won’t move forward.

Two members of the House have been pushing legislation that would expand Obama’s executive order by overturning the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment. That’s a federal law that prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for the destruction of human embryos.

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, and Rep. Mike Castle, a Delaware Republican, have spearheaded the effort to overturn the law and open the floodgates to significantly more taxpayer funding of the unproven and unethical research.

“Obviously, with every day that goes by, it becomes less likely” that their bill will pass, Castle told The Hill today.“I’d like to see it happen, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.”

DeGette told the Congressional newspaper that she has talked with House Democratic leaders who have told her they will bring up the legislation for a debate and vote if the Senate does as well.

But with Republicans promising to filibuster any bill over a failure by Democrats to make good on renewing tax cuts, and with the time left for the lame duck schedule in the Senate drawing to a close, it doesn’t appear that any bill will be brought up before this session of Congress concludes.

“I’ve talked to my leadership about it and they say it’s still not off the table,” DeGette said. “The concern is … an issue of time. Why would we have a vote on something like this if it’s not going to come up in the other body?”

If a bill doesn’t pass this year, DeGette says she holds out hope that the next Congress, which will have pro-life advocates holding a majority of the House and control of the legislative agenda, will consider it.

But Castle sees the writing on the wall and knows such a bill will likely never be brought up for a debate under pro-life Speaker-elect John Boehner.
“It’s evident that absolutely nothing will pass in the next Congress,” Castle told The Hill, “so if we’re going to do it, we have to do it during this lame duck.”

If Congress doesn’t approve the measure this session, it’s likely that the pro-life movement will be able to fend off legislation to repeal the law and put more tax dollars behind research involving the destruction of human embryos until at least the 2013 session of Congress.

At that point, a pro-life president may occupy the White House and scale back the Obama order and put a renewed emphasis on adult stem cell research, the only type that has helped any patients and that is free from ethical and moral problems.