House Votes 253-174 To Pass Embryonic Stem Cell Research Legislation; White House Reiterates Veto Threat
The House on Thursday voted 253-174 to approve a bill (HR 3) -- called the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 -- that would expand federal funding for human embryonic stem cell
research, the New York Times reports (Kirkpatrick, New York Times, 1/12). Federal funding for 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. Bush in July 2006 vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (HR 810), which would have expanded stem cell lines that are eligible for federal funding and allowed funding for research using
stem cells derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients. The Stem Cell
Research Enhancement Act of 2007 is the same as the bill Bush vetoed. The Senate is expected to consider the legislation in
a few weeks (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/11). The House was 37 votes shy of the 290 votes needed to override a presidential veto. Thirty-seven Republicans and
216 Democrats voted for the legislation, and 158 Republicans and 16 Democrats voted against it (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/12). A motion to send the bill back to committee and amend it to forbid research that involves human cloning failed 238-139.
Eighteen more House members voted for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 than voted for the Stem Cell Research
Enhancement Act of 2005. Most of the new votes for the legislation came from the 32 new House Democrats who were elected in
November 2006, while some came from lawmakers who changed their position since last year's vote, CQ Today reports.
According to CQ Today, it is not clear how soon the Senate will either consider the House bill or if it will
consider its own measure (Wayne, CQ Today, 1/11).
Bush Opposition, Reaction
The White House in a statement released Thursday reiterated Bush's intent to veto
the measure. "The bill would compel all American taxpayers to pay for research that relies on the intentional destruction
of human embryos," the statement said (New York Times, 1/12). During three hours of debate in the House some
legislators spoke of family members and friends who they said could be helped by embryonic stem cell research, while others
said that the measure would involve the government in the destruction of human embryos, the Los Angeles Times reports (Gaouette, Los Angeles Times, 1/12). Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who is blind in one eye, said that
she would benefit from stem cell research to replace a detached retina but that the federal government should emphasize research
into adult stem cells, not those derived from embryos. Rep. Zach Space (D-Ohio) described his 16-year-old son's juvenile diabetes
to "those who do not have the will to stand up against a presidential veto," saying, "This research represents the only meaningful
hope for a cure in my son's lifetime" (Kuhnhenn, AP/MLive.com, 1/12). Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-sponsor of the bill, said Bush should begin negotiating with Congress to draft compromise
language for the bill. The Senate lacks only one vote for a two-thirds majority needed for an override, and the Democrats'
majority position will allow them to use procedural rules in their favor, the Washington Post reports. "While [the House vote is] not enough to override a veto, it's enough to show we have tremendous momentum," and
it "shows that productive discussions might be a very, very good idea for all concerned," DeGette said (Weiss, Washington
Several broadcast programs reported on the passage of the embryonic stem cell research bill.
Some of them are summarized below.
NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Rep. Steve Kagan (D-Wis.) and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.). (Seabrook, "All Things Considered,"
NPR, 1/11). Audio of the segment is available online. NPR on Wednesday included a web extra featuring a timeline of the stem cell research debate. The report is available online (Godoy/Palca, "All Things Considered," NPR, 1/10). The transcript of a Q&A with NPR reporter Joe Palca about stem cell
research also is available online (Palca, "All Things Considered," 1/11).
NPR's "Science Friday": The segment includes comments from Anthony Atala, director of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine (Flatow, "Science Friday," NPR, 1/12).