House Votes to Ease Limits on Stem Cell Research

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 8, 2007

The House easily passed legislation yesterday that would loosen President Bush's six-year-old restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but the vote once again fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a promised veto.

Bush immediately renewed his pledge to veto the bill, which passed 247 to 176, and matches language approved by the Senate in April.

It is the third time the House has approved similar legislation. The vote seemed unaffected by Wednesday's news that scientists in Japan and the United States -- working with mice -- had found a way to make cells equivalent to embryonic stem cells without having to create or destroy embryos.

Opponents of human embryo research had used those findings to bolster their case that stem cell research -- which shows potential against a wide array of diseases -- does not have to depend on the destruction of embryos.

Proponents of the bill, which would allow federally funded scientists to study cells from donated, frozen embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics, may get one more opportunity to challenge Bush's policy.

That is because passage this time was arranged so that the Senate, rather than the House, will have the first vote on an override. Proponents in that chamber -- which in April passed the bill, 63 to 34, on a day when two of its supporters were absent -- appear to be within reach of the necessary two-thirds majority.

Although it appears the bill will go no farther than that, a Senate override would be a milestone for legislators and others frustrated with Bush's refusal to approve the measure. Polls suggest it is supported by the majority of Americans.

"The Senate gets it. The public gets it. The House gets it. Why doesn't the president of the United States get it?" asked Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the House bill's primary sponsor. She noted that a Gallup poll indicates that 64 percent of Americans support embryonic stem cell research.

"For many, stem cell research is the most promising source of potential treatments and cures," DeGette said. "Unfortunately, because of the stubbornness of one man, President Bush, these people continue to suffer and wait."

Opponents also directed their comments to the president.

"I thank God we have a president in the White House who will, with every confidence, veto this legislation like he did before," Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said.

Pence and others who believe that human embryos have moral standing as members of society object to the fact that embryos must be destroyed to obtain their stem cells.

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