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House Passes Bill Relaxing Limits on Stem Cell Research

"The assumption by many people that you have to kill human embryos to get embryonic stem cells just isn't true," Bartlett said.

On the other side, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) warned that if Congress does not override a Bush veto this time, "this will be remembered as a Luddite Moment in American history, where fear triumphed over hope and ideology triumphed over science."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) wondered aloud -- not seriously, he assured -- whether those voting against the bill would be willing to waive their right to access the cures that would come from the work.

When the final vote was tallied, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took to the podium and announced with apparent glee: "The bill is passed!"

Passage came into question only briefly when Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Tex.) introduced a motion that would have amended the bill to include broad new limits on scientists' ability to clone human embryos for research.

Scientists have said that cloned human embryos offer a unique opportunity to create stem cells with particular genetic defects, giving researchers an unprecedented window into the underpinnings of birth defects and a wide range of diseases.

Current federal policy already precludes the use of federal funds for such studies. But Burgess's motion would have cut off all federal embryonic stem cell grant money for any laboratory where embryo cloning research was underway, even with private money.

The motion was defeated 238 to 189 after a frantic effort by leaders in both parties.

Senate leaders have said they plan to take up the bill next month.

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