House Passes Bill To Allow Federal Funds for Stem Cell Research
The House on Thursday voted 247-176 to pass a bill (S 5) that would allow federal funding for research using stem cells derived from human embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients, the New York Times reports (Zeleny/Wade, New York Times, 6/8).
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 President Bush on that date.
The Senate in April voted 63-34 to pass the bill, called the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007. The measure differs from a House-approved bill (HR 3) of the same name because it includes language that would require NIH to research and fund methods of creating embryonic stem cell lines without destroying embryos (California Healthline, 6/1).
Bush -- who is attending the Group of Eight industrialized nations 2007 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany -- said he plans to veto the measure after he returns June 11 (George, CQ Today, 6/7).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democratic lawmakers on Thursday at a ceremony marking the bill's passage called on Bush to not veto the legislation, CongressDaily reports (Edney, CongressDaily, 6/7).
According to the Times, 210 Democrats and 37 Republicans in the House voted for the measure, which is 35 votes short of what would be needed to override a presidential veto. Sixteen Democrats and 160 Republicans voted against the legislation, the Times reports.
If Bush vetoes the measure, the Senate would attempt to override the veto first; however, even counting the three Democratic senators that were absent for the original vote, the chamber is one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto, the Times reports (New York Times, 6/8).
Bush in a statement said, "I am disappointed the leadership of Congress recycled an old bill that would simply overturn our country's carefully balanced policy on embryonic stem cell research."
He added that under the bill, "American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to support deliberate destruction of human embryos. Crossing that line would be a grave mistake. For that reason, I will veto the bill."
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) -- noting a Gallup poll that indicates that 64% of U.S. residents support embryonic stem cell research -- said, "The Senate gets it. The public gets it. The House gets it. Why doesn't the president of the United States get it?" DeGette added that "stem cell research is the most promising source of potential treatments and cures," but "[u]nfortunately, because of the stubbornness of [Bush], these people continue to suffer and wait" (Weiss, Washington Post, 6/7).
According to the Times, several Republicans who voted against the measure cited new research reported on Wednesday (New York Times, 6/8). Three independent teams of scientists said they have developed experimental approaches using the skin cells of mice to create embryonic stem cells without creating or destroying embryos (California Healthline, 6/7).
Bush said, "Recent scientific developments have reinforced my conviction that stem cell science can progress in ethical ways."
DeGette said that "this new scientific research should not be used as an excuse to say that it is a substitute for embryonic stem cell research" (New York Times, 6/8).
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a sponsor of the bill, said, "We will continue to [pass the legislation] again, and again, and again until this bill becomes law" (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8).
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "This is politics. This is not about expanding research." He added, "They understand clearly that the president has vetoed this bill in the past and will veto it again" (New York Times, 6/8).
Several broadcast programs on Thursday reported on the House vote and studies released on Wednesday about embryonic stem cells.
- CBS' "Evening News": The segment includes comments from Bruce Stillman of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association; Evan Snyder of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research; and Reid (LaPook, "Evening News," CBS, 6/7). Video of the segment is available online.
- C-SPAN's "Washington Journal": The segment includes a discussion with Reps. James Lagevin (D-R.I.) and Dave Weldon (D-Fla.) ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 6/7). Video of the segment is available online.
- MSNBC: The segment includes comments from Pelosi; Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas); Kathrin Plath of UCLA; and Karl Robb, an advocate for embryonic stem cell research (Potts, MSNBC Web site, 6/7). Video of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "Day to Day": The segment includes a discussion with NPR science correspondent Joe Palca (Brand, "Day to Day," NPR, 6/7). Audio of the segment is available online.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The segment includes a discussion with Kenneth Miller, a stem cell biologist at Brown University, and Rick Weiss, a science reporter for the Washington Post (Brown, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 6/7). Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online. Video will be available Friday afternoon.