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US Congress votes in favour of extensions to ES cell research

26 May 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 310

The US House of Representatives has approved a bill that would overturn President Bush's current policy on human embryonic stem cell (ES) research. Members of the House voted 238-194 in favour of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, which was sponsored by Michael Castle and Dianne DeGette, with support from about 200 co-sponsors. Fifty Republican members voted in favour of the new legislation, along with a large majority of Democrat representatives.

President Bush, who opposes any research that would involve the destruction of human embryos, announced on 9 August 2001 that no federal funds would be available for researchers working on human ES cells created after that date. US scientists have since complained that this policy restricts their research and leaves only less effective ES cell lines for them to work with, as ES cells created before that date were created using mouse 'feeder' cells.

The new legislation would allow an extension of federal funding for research using ES cells derived from embryos left over from fertility treatments and donated by patients. However, it would not allow funds for ES cell research on embryos that are created expressly for research purposes. It also provides that patients cannot be paid for embryo donation and that they must have full knowledge of how the donated embryos would be used.

The bill will now pass to the Senate, where it should also have enough support to pass. However, Senator Sam Brownback, a known opponent of ES cell research, has said that he will prevent the vote from happening by filibustering - although supporters of the bill think they have the 60 votes necessary to end any filibuster and force the vote through with no amendments. Even if the Senate vote goes ahead, Bush has the final say, and has vowed to veto it, which he can do as long as there is less than a two-thirds majority in both votes. 'This bill would take us across a critical ethical line by creating new incentives for the ongoing destruction of emerging human life', he said, adding 'crossing this line would be a great mistake'. The House of Representatives, despite the Republican backing, did not achieve the necessary two-thirds majority. When Bush first proposed the veto last week, Dianne DeGette said that 'it's disappointing that the president would threaten to use his first veto on a bill that holds promise for cures to diseases that affect millions of Americans'.

Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid has called for a 'quick vote' in the Senate, saying that Bush is 'wrong politically, morally and scientifically' for opposing the change. Senator Arlen Specter, currently undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease, said that a vote in favour would give him and others hope. 'Not to have the availability of the best of medical care is simply atrocious', he said. However, Republican Dave Weldon said that he didn't think there was any point in a vote, if the president was set on a veto. 'There's no chance it will become law', he said. Others say that the president would be advised not to veto the bill by senior White House advisors, as it seems there is public support for a loosening of the restrictions. A cross-party group of Senators has urged the president to reconsider his position and withdraw the threat to veto. Specter and others told Bush that they expect that despite not gaining the necessary number of votes to override a veto this time, further publicity would make this an inevitability. But Bush responded: 'I have made my position very clear on that issue', he said, adding 'I believe that the use of federal monies that end up destroying life... is not positive, is not good'.

House Defies Bush on Stem Cells
The Washington Post |  25 May 2005
House defies Bush over stem cell bill
The Guardian |  25 May 2005
House votes to lift limits on stem cells
The Boston Globe |  25 May 2005
Senators ask Bush to OK stem-cell bill
The Washington Times |  26 May 2005
23 July 2006 - by Sean Tipton 
With unprecedented bipartisan support in the US House of Representatives, the US Senate, and from the American people, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act passed both houses of Congress and landed on President Bush's desk this week, only to be met with the first veto of the Bush Administration. President...
20 July 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
US President George Bush has vetoed a bill passed by Congress that would have removed restrictions on federally-funded human embryonic stem (ES) cell research in America. The bill - known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (HR 810) - was debated alongside two other bills...
21 October 2005 - by BioNews 
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has proposed postponing until 2006 a vote on a bill that would expand federal funding for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act 2005 would, if passed, allow funding for scientists to conduct ES cell research on embryos left over...
7 October 2005 - by BioNews 
A Wisconsin University-based research group, WiCell, is set to host the first federally-funded US bank of human embryonic stem (ES) cells. The National Stem Cell Bank will house many of the ES cell lines approved for use in research paid for by the government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH...
23 September 2005 - by BioNews 
Florida may be the next US state to fund embryonic stem (ES) cell research, under a proposed constitutional amendment put forward by the group Floridians for Stem Cell Research and Cures (FSCRC). The proposal would allocate $200 million over ten years to the research and its backers say the language...
6 June 2005 - by BioNews 
Human embryonic stem (ES) cells do not show signs of genetic instability when grown for extended periods in the laboratory, UK researchers say. The results, published in the journal Nature Genetics, are 'not only surprising but good news for potential therapeutic use', says study leader Roger Pederson. The scientists, based...
23 May 2005 - by BioNews 
In the wake of cloning and embryonic stem (ES) cell news from scientists in South Korea and the UK, a vote on legislation to extend the provisions of state funding for ES cell research in the US is expected in Congress this week. However, President Bush - who announced his disapproval...
21 March 2005 - by BioNews 
New federal legislation that would ban all forms of human cloning has been introduced to both the US Senate and Congress. Senators Sam Brownback and Mary Landrieu have co-sponsored the Senate bill and Representatives Dave Weldon and Bart Stupak are sponsoring the bill in Congress. All of the sponsors have...
21 February 2005 - by BioNews 
A new bill, designed to expand funding for embryonic stem (ES) cell research, has been introduced to both chambers of the US federal legislature. Last Wednesday, bill HR810, also known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, was put forward by a bipartisan group of members of the...
7 July 2004 - by BioNews 
Last week, in its monthly magazine, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) announced its support for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research and called for federal funding to be restored for new studies to fight disease. This may add to the 'pressure' on President Bush to relax his policy on such...
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