Senate Will Vote on Stem Cell Legislation
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Thursday announced that he will schedule a vote as early as next month on three human embryonic stem cell-related bills, the Wall Street Journal reports (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 6/30).
The Senate will consider (HR 810), which the House has approved, would allow funding for research using stem cells derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients. The bill seeks to address a policy, announced by President Bush on Aug. 9, 2001, that allows federal funding for embryonic stem cell research only when it uses stem cell lines created on or before that date.
Another bill (S 2754), sponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), would require NIH to research and fund methods of creating embryonic stem cell lines without destroying human embryos. The bill contains a rule that the measure would not affect any regulations regarding embryonic stem cells, human cloning or any other research methods that are currently prohibited. The bill also calls for research on adult stem cells (American Health Line, 6/28).
The other bill (S 3504), sponsored by Santorum and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), would make it illegal to conduct research on embryos from "fetal farms," where human embryos could be made in a nonhuman uterus or from human pregnancies that were created specifically for the purpose of research, CQ Today reports (Schuler, CQ Today, 6/29).
Under the terms of the agreement Frist reached with leaders of both parties, the three bills will be debated for 12 hours on a date, likely in July, that will be agreed upon by Frist and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the leaders said. To pass, each of the bills would need at least 60 votes, and amendments will not be permitted (Weiss, Washington Post, 6/30).
Democratic and Republican aides said it is possible for all three bills to obtain the 60-vote requirement, according to the Journal (Wall Street Journal, 6/30).
Frist on Thursday on the Senate floor said, "I am pro-life. I personally believe human life begins at conception, ... [b]ut it isn't just about faith, it's a matter of science" (CQ Today, 6/29). He added, "Stem cells offer a hope for treatment that other lines of research simply haven't offered" (Brooks, Gannett/USA Today, 6/30).
Frist also said that introducing all three proposals at the same time will help "address the profound questions" surrounding stem cell research (Wall Street Journal, 6/30).
Reid said the agreement to consider the three bills at once is not ideal, but "we'll take what we can get" (CQ Today, 6/29).
Bush previously has threatened to veto HR 810 if it is passed by the Senate (American Health Line, 6/28). The White House on Thursday again said it opposes destroying embryos for stem cell research, according to the Post (Washington Post, 6/30).
"This legislation would use federal dollars as an incentive for the present and future destruction of human embryos," White House spokesperson Ken Lisaius said, adding that Bush "doesn't believe we're forced to choose between science and ethics" (Gannett/USA Today, 6/30).