Bush Reiterates Veto Threat for Stem Cell Research Bill
President Bush on Tuesday in a statement said that he would veto a bill (S 5) that would expand federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research and, in another statement, expressed support for a bill (S 30) that would allow federal funding for stem cell research using embryos with no chance of survival, CQ Today reports (Armstrong, CQ Today, 4/10).
Federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research is allowed only for research using embryonic stem cell lines created on or before Aug. 9, 2001, under a policy announced by Bush on that date.
The bill Bush threatened to veto, called the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, would allow federal funding for research using stem cells derived from human embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients.
The Senate measure differs from a House-approved bill (HR 3) of the same name because it includes language proposed last year by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) that would require NIH to research and fund methods of creating embryonic stem cell lines without destroying embryos.
The other bill, known as the HOPE Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), would allow federal funding for stem cell research using embryos with no chance of survival. Coleman and Isakson's measure would fund research on stem cells taken from "dead" human embryos or extracted from living embryos without destroying them.
In addition, it would allow federal funding for research on stem cell lines derived from embryos that are not likely to survive during the freezing process or in the womb.
According to Isakson, the measure also would promote research using stem cells derived from other sources, such as amniotic fluid. The Senate began debate on both measures on Tuesday (American Health Line, 4/10).
According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), backers of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act might only have 66 votes, one vote short to override the veto (Rockoff, Baltimore Sun, 4/11).
The Senate is scheduled to vote on both bills Wednesday evening, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said (CQ Today, 4/10).
White House spokesperson Dana Perino said, "It is incumbent upon the president to balance both the moral and the ethical boundaries for new scientific research" (Gaouette, Los Angeles Times, 4/11). A White House statement said the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act "would use federal taxpayer dollars to support and encourage the destruction of human life for research."
Feinstein said the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act "eventually will become law," adding, "If not this year then next year. If not next year, then the following year."
Coleman said the HOPE Act is "a way around the culture wars." He added, "It's not all we want, but it moves the science forward."
According to the AP/International Herald Tribune, Senate supporters of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act said they would vote for the alternative bill, but they deemed it insufficient (Espo, AP/International Herald Tribune, 4/10).
Bernard Siegel -- executive director of the Florida-based Genetics Policy Institute -- called the HOPE Act "nothing more than political cover so politicians can go back to their constituents and boast that they are supporting 'ethical' stem cell research" (Weiss, Washington Post, 4/11).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she remains optimistic that Congress and Bush could reach an agreement on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (AP/International Herald Tribune, 4/10).
Several broadcast programs reported on the Senate stem cell bills. Summaries appear below.
- C-SPAN's "Washington Journal": The program on Tuesday included discussions about the legislation with Amy Comstock Rick -- CEO of the Parkinson's Action Network, which supports the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act -- and Isakson ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 4/10). Video of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Coleman and Specter (Welna, "All Things Considered," NPR, 4/10). Audio of the segment and expanded NPR coverage are available online. "All Things Considered" on Tuesday also included a discussion with NPR science correspondent Joe Palca about developments in stem cell research and the significance of the Senate votes (Block, "All Things Considered," NPR, 4/10). Audio of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Harkin; Coleman; Hatch; and Feinstein (Welna, "Morning Edition," NPR, 4/11). Audio of the segment is available online.