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House Votes to Expand Stem Cell Research

Bill Would Allow Federal Funding for New Embryonic Stem Cell Lines
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Argument Over Stem Cell Potential continued...

Tuesday's debate at times reached an emotional pitch, with several conservative Republicans arguing embryonic stem cell research does not violate their pro-life principles and others describing loved ones who suffered with incurable diseases.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who leads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told colleagues of a brother who died from liver cancer at age 44 and of his father, who succumbed to complications related to diabetes at age 71. Barton boasted about a 19-year congressional career in which he has cast just one vote not supported by pro-life groups.

"After this vote today, I am going to be 100% minus two," he said. "Where I came down is, let's look at all the avenues."

Conservative Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) argued that research was the best use for embryos that would otherwise be discarded after being stored in clinics. "Those are embryos that we can use for stem cell research. This is an issue of life for me," he said.

Opponents have consistently complained that supporters oversell the promise of embryonic stem cells. They also argue that the research requires the taking of nascent human lives in the form of embryos.

"That is the essence of the experiment: Kill some in the hopes of saving others," said House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas)

"Science tells us what we can do. Science does not tell us what we should do," said Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.).

What's Next for Stem Cell Legislation

The bill's fate remains unclear despite Tuesday's passage. The Senate has yet to act on an identical measure, though 58 of 100 senators signed a letter last year asking Bush to expand federal funding for experiments using embryonic stem cells.

Bush last Friday threatened to use the first veto of his presidency to block the bill if it reaches his desk. Bush repeated his opposition to the bill on Tuesday at an event honoring families whose children were once other couples' embryos.

"There is no such thing as a spare embryo. Every embryo is unique and genetically complete, like every other human being. These lives are not raw material to be exploited, but gifts," he said.

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