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Senate leader breaks ranks on stem cells

1 August 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 319

Bill Frist, the US Senate Majority Leader, has added his support to legislation that would extend the provision of federal funding for human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research in the US. Current policy, set by President Bush on 9 August 2001, only allows state funds to be used for research on ES cell lines that were created before that date.

Many scientists complain that these cell lines are less effective than more recently created lines, as they are contaminated with the mouse feeder cells used to grow them. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act 2005 would, if passed, allow funding for scientists to conduct ES cell research on embryos left over from fertility treatments and donated for research purposes. The bill has already passed through the US House of Representatives, but seems to have stalled in the Senate.

Frist, a Republican, has previously been known to support Bush's policy and is anti-abortion. Although he says that his belief is that life begins at conception, he explained his change of heart, saying 'the limits put in place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases'. He added: 'Embryonic stem cell research should be encouraged and supported'.

Frist, who is a surgeon, is often 'looked to' by other Senators on issues to do with medicine. His support, as well as the fact that he has 'broken ranks' with other Republicans and the President may give the bill more chance of success. However, a vote on the Bill is not expected until at least September, as Congress has entered the August recess. Frist refused to bring the bill - or any of the other stem cell bills currently before the Senate - to a vote last week because he could not get other Senators to agree to vote on the bills without adding wrecking amendments. But, he said, 'I'm not going to give up on the stem cell issue because the research is hugely promising', adding that 'I hope that after we get back, we will be able to address the issue'.

Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it is passed. In response to Frist's announcement, Scott Maclellan, a White House spokesman, said that President Bush had not changed his mind on the issue: 'I think the President has made his position very clear. Nothing has changed in terms of his position', he said. A presidential veto can be overridden if there are 67 or more votes in favour of the bill - Senator Arlen Specter, one of the sponsors of the bill, says that at least 62 Senators have pledged their support.

Doctor defies Bush over cell research
The Daily Telegraph |  30 July 2005
Senate challenge to Bush on stem cell research
The Guardian |  30 July 2005
Senate leader criticised and praised for stem cell shift
The New York Times |  30 July 2005
Veering from Bush, Frist backs funding for stem cell research
The New York Times |  29 July 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...
17 July 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
The US Senate has begun debating a bill on embryonic stem cell ES cell) research that will, if passed, extend the provision of federal funding for such research. The bill - known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (HR 810) - is being debated alongside two...
3 July 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
The US Senate may soon be due to vote on a bill to expand the availability of federal funding for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced last week that he will schedule a vote sometime this month on the bill...
19 December 2005 - by BioNews 
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill (HR2520) by 413 votes to zero that would authorise $79 million of federal funds for the collection and storage of umbilical cord blood. The new Cord Blood Stem Cell Act 2005 was previously passed by the Senate and now goes to...
25 July 2005 - by BioNews 
The bill to expand federal funding for stem cell research in the US looks unlikely to come to a vote this week before the summer recess. The bill was passed easily by the House of Representatives in May, and a similar success was expected in the Senate, perhaps with enough...
18 July 2005 - by BioNews 
A new US bill that proposes funding research into alternatives to human embryonic stem (ES) cells is gaining support, and could take votes away from bill HR810, which proposes expanding federal funding for ES cell research. The new bill, HR3144 - introduced by Republican Senator Roscoe Bartlett - proposes $15 million a...
4 July 2005 - by BioNews 
Supporters of a US bill to extend federal funding of research on human embryonic stem (ES) cells are predicting a victory when it is debated by Senators later this month. More than 60 are expected to vote in favour of the legislation, say its proponents - although President Bush has pledged...
20 June 2005 - by BioNews 
Senators in the US will start to debate a bill on the issue of human embryonic stem (ES) cell research next month. A bipartisan group of senators is campaigning to persuade President Bush to relax his policy on the research. Bush, who opposes any research that would involve the destruction...
26 May 2005 - by BioNews 
The US House of Representatives has approved a bill that would overturn President Bush's current policy on human embryonic stem (ES) cell 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...
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