Lawmakers To Explore Legislation Clarifying Research for Stem Cells
In the coming weeks, House Democrats will pursue legislation that would circumvent a recent ruling by a U.S. district court judge that blocked federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, CQ Today reports.
The odds of a bill getting through both the House and the Senate this session are slim, according to political analysts, as lawmakers have a crowded docket and a limited time frame until they return to their home states to campaign for the midterm elections (Ethridge, CQ Today, 9/10).
On Aug. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting federal funding for stem cell research allowed under President Obama's stem cell research guidelines, ruling that the policy violates a 1996 law known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits expending federal funds for "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed."
On Sept. 7, Lamberth rejected the administration's request to lift the preliminary injunction while it appealed his initial decision. The Department of Justice had argued that Lamberth's ban would jeopardize millions of dollars intended for projects already under way and prevent "significant additional medical breakthroughs."
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., temporarily lifted the injunction to give its judges time to consider the merits of Lamberth's decision and the Obama administration's counterarguments. The panel noted that its ruling "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits" of the case (California Healthline, 9/10).
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who is leading the legislative effort, said chances "are excellent" for passing a bill that would clarify Congress' intent that embryonic stem cell research conducted under the Obama administration's guidelines would not be subject to the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. She said there is "strong bipartisan support" in both chambers.
House leaders have included stem cell legislation on the chamber's potential itinerary, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not included the issue on a list of items slated for the chamber floor in the coming weeks.
Although Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has scheduled a Sept. 16 hearing on the issue, an aide to the lawmaker said Harkin has not discussed bill specifics with the Senate leadership (CQ Today, 9/10).
Following the temporary reprieve granted by the appellate court, NIH has reinstated funding for embryonic stem cell research (CQ HealthBeat, 9/10).
Scientists who already have received NIH grants for research have been told to continue their work, but those working on 22 projects that were slated to receive research money in September will have to find other sources of funding. Now that the court has granted the temporary reprieve, it is unclear whether NIH will finish reviews for those projects (Neergaard, AP/Washington Times, 9/10).
The reprieve will last at least through Sept. 20, when the appellate court aims to finalize a decision on emergency motions to lift the injunction (CQ HealthBeat, 9/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.