Despite the certainty of a presidential veto, the U.S. Senate still voted to ease federal funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The final vote of 63-34 in favor was still a few votes shy of the 66 needed to override a presidential veto, but it marked continued progress towards what supporters view as the inevitable overturning of President Bush’s 2001 federal funding ban on new embryonic stem cell research. Bush’s funding ban cut off all funding for research into new embryonic stem cell lines and made federal funding available only for surplus embryos from fertility clinics that had been donated for research by a consenting adult.

The Senate bill, known as S.5, would restore federal funding for research on embryos regardless of their date of creation, as long as they donated from in-vitro fertilization clinics by a consenting adult, and with the condition that if the embryos were not used for research, they would be destroyed. President Bush said in a statement that, “Research using human embryonic stem cells is still at an early stage, and it will be years before researchers know how much promise lies in therapeutic applications. I believe this early stage is precisely when it is most important to develop ethically responsible techniques, so the potential of stem cells can be explored without violating human dignity and life. S.5 is very similar to legislation I vetoed last year. This bill crosses a moral line that I and many others find troubling. If it advances all the way through Congress to my desk, I will veto it.”

The other stem cell research bill that the Senate passed, titled the Hope Act, is a certainty to be signed into law by the president. The Republican backed measure provides federal funding for adult stem cell research which does not involve use of an embryo that could possibly develop into a human life. The bill passed by a margin of 70-28. President Bush said that, “the Hope Act, builds on this ethically appropriate research by encouraging further development of these alternative techniques for producing stem cells without embryo creation or destruction. I strongly support this bill, and I encourage the Congress to pass it and send it to me for my signature, so stem cell science can progress, without ethical and cultural conflict.”

As the 2006 Senate race in Missouri showed, public support for stem cell research is strong. President Bush and the social conservatives will not be able to stem the tide of public support for this research for much longer. You may wonder why the Senate would bother with this bill, if they know that the president is going to veto it anyway. There are two reasons. First, the stem cell issue has been gaining congressional support each time that it has come up for a vote. It is getting closer to being veto proof each time. Second, Democrats are trying to set their agenda, not only for the 2008 campaign, but they are also trying to show America what Democratic control of the White House might look like. Like it or not, the tide has turned on the issue of embryonic stem cell research, and, in my opinion, it is only a matter of time until the Bush ban is lifted.

President Bush’s statement on Senate stem cell research votes

Senate vote story

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse blog radio

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