The Scientific Activist (Archives)


May 21, 2006

Embryonic Stem Cell Bill May Finally Receive Vote in Senate

This Wednesday, May 24th, will mark the one year anniversary of the House of Representatives’ passage of H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, which sent it to the Senate for final approval. Since its passage in the House, though, the Republican leadership in the Senate has sat on it, not bring it to a vote as occasionally promised. Rumor has it, though, that the stem cell bill may finally get voted on, pending an upcoming announcement by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

H.R. 810 would end what is effectively a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and replace it with much more reasonable regulations. The current state of affairs not only causes underfunding of stem cell research but also makes it difficult for someone performing embryonic stem cell research to perform any other research involving federal funds.

Although the bill was sponsored by a Republican, Michael Castle of Delaware, 93% of Democrats supported H.R. 810 in the House vote, while 79% of Republicans opposed it. Senate Democrats currently lead the charge to bring the bill to a vote there, although doing so through a bipartisan coalition:
Democrats believe stem cell research should be a part of any health care debate, but Bush Republicans in the Senate are preparing to wrap up their “health week” having accomplished nothing and having refused to even consider such promising research. Last week, Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy, Tom Harkin, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, and Bob Menendez called on Senate Republicans to bring House-passed stem cell legislation (H.R. 810) to the Senate for debate and not squander this opportunity to help millions of people….

…“The need to expand stem cell research in this country is as critical as ever,” said Senator Harkin. “For millions of Americans, stem cell research remains a life-or-death issue. Yet nearly a year after the House passed a bill to do just that with a strong, bipartisan majority, we are still denied a vote in the Senate. At the close of the Republicans so-called ‘health week’, we are still denied a vote. A bipartisan majority in the Senate support expanding stem cell research; Senator Frist himself said he backs it. And yet we are still denied a vote.”

“It’s time for the Senate to pass this bill,” Senator Feinstein said. “It’s time for a sensible embryonic stem cell policy that promotes research. Not one that is limited to 22 lines that are contaminated by mouse feeder cells. It’s time to unleash our researchers and encourage them to find cures. This fight is really about cures and treatments for patients. The price of inaction goes up every day.”

Embryonic stem cell research is an issue where the Democrats are clearly in line with the vast majority of Americans. A recent poll found that 72% of Americans favor “medical research that uses stem cells from human embryos,” and 70% believe the senate should bring H.R. 810 to a vote. By indefinitely delaying a vote on this bill, the Republicans are flagrantly violating the will of the American people.

There may be some good news in sight, though, as Michael Stebbins of Sex Drugs and DNA reports that Senator Frist is planning to announce a vote on H.R. 810 sometime soon:
Word on the Hill is that Senator Bill Frist will be making an announcement regarding the stem cell bills in the coming week. Apparently he is going to announce that he will allow 3 bills to come up for a vote “soon.” They will each get a separate unanimous consent vote instead of having them voted on as a package deal where Senators either vote for all 3 or none.

The first bill (HR810) is designed to lift the President’s ridiculous ban from August 2001 on the use of federal funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research. (For those of you playing the home game, this is the good guy’s bill.)

As an ongoing project, Stebbins has a counter on his site that demonstrates just how long Senator Frist has had to bring this bill to a vote. As I write this, the counter is up to 362 days, 15 hours, 33 minutes, and 11 seconds. The two other bills he mentioned above are S. 2754 (the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act) and the yet-to-be-introduced “Anti-Fetus Farm Bill”. Both bills serve as distractions from the real issue, which is the promise of embryonic stem cell research and the need to allow unrestricted federal funding. Stebbins encourages his readers to contact their senators to demand a vote on H.R. 810 and to request that they support it but not the other two bills. I’ll echo his call to action, particularly in regards to H.R. 810.

Embryonic stem cell Research has suffered greatly in the US over the last few years, and the Senate now has a chance to reverse that trend and allow the US to catch up with the rest of the world. Let’s hope our leadership doesn’t continue to pass up such an important opportunity.


  • I hope this passes but I am not optimistic. The policies regarding this issue have hurt us in the states and have forced much of this research overseas. Until we switch parties in the white house we probably will not see full funding.

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    By Blogger Wes, at Mon May 22, 12:51:00 AM  

  • I'm trying to be optimistic, although the current leadership hasn't really given us much of a reason to be. If this does pass under Republican leadership, though, I hope people will remember that it was the Democrats who have been fighting for this all along. Regardless, for the sake of the science, these regulations need to change. Now.

    By Blogger Nick Anthis, at Mon May 22, 01:24:00 AM  

  • With the Democrats now in command, I bet that we will see similar bills to this.

    By Anonymous Embryonic Stem Cells Research, at Sat Jan 13, 07:37:00 AM  

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