Thu, Jul 20, 2006 - Page 6 News List

US Senate approves stem cell research funding bill

PRESIDENTIAL VETO Despite the passage, Congress will be hard pressed to muster the required vote to override a likely veto by the conservative president


The US Senate on Tuesday approved a measure increasing stem cell research funding in the face of the first and almost certain veto by US President George W. Bush.

Stem cell research advocates say the technique shows promise for the treatment of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and for diabetes.

Opponents say the destruction of human embryos is morally wrong.

With the 63-37 vote, it was unlikely that Congress would be able to muster the requisite two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives to override a veto, which would be Bush's first since taking office in January 2001.

The presidential veto was expected as soon as yesterday, aides said.

Bush has said he would veto the bill because it gives public money for research that involves the destruction of human embryos.

The president "believes strongly that for the purpose of research it's inappropriate for the federal government to finance something that many people consider murder. He's one of them," spokesman Tony Snow said before the Senate vote.

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would lift rules Bush set in 2001 that make federal funds available only for research on a small number of embryonic stem cell lines which existed at that time.

Government money was barred from supporting work on new lines derived from human embryos -- a restriction that opponents say hampers overall research. They say that some of the stem cell lines approved under the 2001 legislation are unusable.

Several key members of Bush's own Republican Party opposed the president on the issue.

One was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a medical doctor, who said that the Senate acted "to unleash the promise of stem cell research while respecting human life at its earliest stages."

According to recent public opinion polls, 70 percent of Americans support embryonic stem cell research.

The bill was supported by Nancy Reagan, the widow of late Republican president Ronald Reagan who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and actor Michael J. Fox, afflicted with Parkinson's disease.

And a leading Democrat, Senator John Kerry, said a Bush veto would steal some of the most advanced technology available today.

"Some of the most pioneering cures and treatments are now right at our fingertips, but because of politics they could remain beyond reach," Kerry said.

Predicting an "outcry" if the president uses his veto, the leader of the Senate Democrats, Harry Reid, said that stem cell research "is not an issue that some small special interest group wants; this is something that the American people want."

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