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Gauntlet Thrown as Congress Passes Stem Cell Bill

Update: I picked this up from an additional report (emphasis mine):

The bill would permit funding for research on embryonic stem cells regardless of the date of their creation, as long as they were donated from in-vitro fertilization clinics, they would "otherwise be discarded" and donors gave their approval.

"No stem cell would ever be taken from an embryo that was not destined to be destroyed in any event," said Rep. Mike Castle, a Delaware Republican who has long bucked his party leaders to support the measure.

Original report begins here
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Congress has challenged the Bush White House to a fight over federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, with the passage of a bill today.

Congressional Democrats are spoiling for their second veto fight of the spring with President Bush, this one centered on embryonic stem cell research and its disease-fighting potential.House supporters of legislation to loosen restrictions on the use of federal funds for the high-tech research claim more than enough votes to send the measure to the White House on Thursday.

Less clear is whether they also will have the votes to override the veto the president has pledged. Bush made his position clear weeks ago when he said the legislation, which involves the destruction of human embryos, "crosses a moral line that I and many others find troubling."

Public polls show strong support for the research, which supporters say could lead to treatment of diseases including Alzheimer's and juvenile diabetes. Democratic congressional leaders arranged to dispatch the measure to the White House with a flourish.

Critics of the legislation said the research requires the destruction of human embryos, and that alternatives have shown more promise.

"You're talking about spare embryos now but if it ever did work ... it would require the killing of millions of embryos," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.

If it ever does work? Hey, if we do make a breakthrough we can at that point look at the breakthrough, and debate what we think should be done going forward from there.

And with all of the critics of embryonic stem cell research saying the use of embryonic cells isn't necessary, why are they concerned about a breakthrough in the first place? Their moral position isn't against embryonic stem cell reserarch today -- they are concerned with what might happen if and when there is a major breakthrough - and if what they say is true, research using embryonic cells won't surpass the research done with other types of stem cells anyway.

The House vote to send the measure to President Bush was 247-176, short of the level needed to override a second veto in as many years on the issue.
There was no federal money for embryonic stem cell research until Bush announced on Aug. 9, 2001, that his administration would make it available for lines of stem cells that were in existence. Elected with the strong support of abortion foes and other conservatives, he said at the time his decision was designed to balance concerns about "protecting life and improving life."

He also limited the funds to cell lines derived from embryos that were surplus at fertility clinics, and that had been donated from adults who had given informed consent.

Advocates of the veto-threatened legislation argue that the number of stem cell lines available for research is smaller than needed, and that some of the material has become contaminated over time by mouse embryonic skin cells that typically are placed at the bottom of culture dishes used in the research.

The bill would permit funding for research on embryonic stem cells regardless of the date of their creation, as long as they were donated from in-vitro fertilization clinics, they would "otherwise be discarded" and donors gave their approval.

Separately, three teams of researchers reported Wednesday they had found a way to produce embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos - but in mice. They got ordinary skin cells to act like the embryonic cells, which can develop into all types of tissue.

In a prelude to the stem cell vote in Congress, House Republicans engineered the defeat of legislation to ban human reproductive cloning. The 213-204 vote against the measure was well short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

Critics said it would facilitate the creation of cloned human embryos to be used in research and then destroyed.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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