Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Next Fight

As I wrote on Sunday, a bill sponsored by Republican Mike Castle and Democrat Diana DeGette to loosen restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research will come up for a vote in the House sometime today. Another bill, sponsored by Republican Chris Smith and Democrat Artur Davis, will also be debated today.

Castle-DeGette would allow federal funding on human stem cells that were "derived from human embryos that have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment," provided that "Prior to the consideration of embryo donation and through consultation with the individuals seeking fertility treatment, it was determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded." Smith-Davis "would provide $79 million in federal money to increase the amount of umbilical cord blood for stem cell research and treatment and establish a national database for patients looking for matches," according to an article in today's Washington Post.

The Smith-Davis bill is considered very likely to pass, and it has the support of President Bush. Castle-DeGette is more controversial, and has drawn the threat of a presidential veto. Of his own bill, Castle told the Post "This is not an easy vote for many Republicans ... and some Democrats, too, because you have pro-life and other arguments. There's a lot of tide against them voting for it." Castle said that while about twenty representatives are still publicly undecided on H.R. 810, he thinks it will get the simple majority needed to pass (but probably not the 290 votes needed to override a veto).

Both bills are good and necessary pieces of legislation - one is not an alternative for the other. As a Castle spokeswoman told the Post, "It's an additional bill. It's something we'd encourage all members to support because all avenues of stem cell research need to be explored."

As I've been writing, I'm learning that Smith-Davis will be considered this morning, and Castle-DeGette this afternoon. More updates as they become available.


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