Sunday, July 16, 2006

Showdown in US Congress on embryonic stem cell research funding

An article by Laurie Kellman of AP on July 16 highlights the upcoming stem cell debate in the US Congress.

A bill on stem cell research could pass both the House and Senate, bringing up the possibility of a Bush veto.

The article notes of a veto: "This would be his first veto in six years, on something that the vast majority of the public supports," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "What would come down on him would be all the scientists, all the Nobel laureates and everyone else who supports it."

Of Bush's past approach:

In 2001, Bush halted federal funding of new embryonic stem cell studies, comparing them to abortion because the process of extracting the crucial stem cells destroys the days-old embryo.

He said at the time that such federal support for research could continue on the 78 stem cell lines then thought to exist. But in the years since, the National Institutes of Health have confirmed that a fraction of that number of lines exist and that few, if any, are viable for clinical trials.

IPBiz notes that the five year anniversary of the Bush restriction is in August 2006. Recall also that the NIH recently expended money for a stem cell line from MizMedi hospital of South Korea which was not in existence in August 2001.

Of the issue of the House:

The House was 50 votes short of its two-thirds majority when it passed the bill last year, 238-194. House leaders were planning for a veto override attempt as soon as Bush vetoes it, probably before week's end.

House sponsor Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., said he expects support for the bill to grow beyond last year's tally, but would not venture whether enough will switch to override a veto.

"A number of (House) members have told me they regret voting against it last year," Castle said.

The article mentions the important role of Nancy Reagan:

Scientific advances, public support and appeals for passage from former first lady Nancy Reagan have given the bill unprecedented momentum.

The article does not mention Hwang Woo-Suk, or that research labs are currently working to attain what Hwang claimed to have in 2004.

[IPBiz post 1783]


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