Stem cell bills passed by US House and Senate

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (HR810), approved by the US House of Representatives in 2005, gained a 63-37 approval in the Senate on July 17th, 2006, and will now be presented for presidential approval or veto.

Bill HR810 passed by the Senate as SB471, overrides the 2001 executive order signed by George W. Bush that banned funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for embryonic stem cell research of stem cell lines created after the executive order was issued. The new bill does not include a provision against privately funded research, which is legal under the law, only research funded by NIH.

The bill includes three ethical requirements for funded research. First, the stem cells 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. Second, 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. And lastly, the individuals seeking fertility treatment donated the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving any financial or other inducements to make the donation.

President Bush is expected to veto the bill as early as today, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the veto would be "pretty swift". This would be President Bush's first veto of his two terms in office.

As with any vetoed bill, a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate can override said veto, but the original vote (63-37) show that the Senate is more than likely to not get the override votes it would need. Even without the two-thirds original vote, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan has voiced support for a veto override.

Two other bills, S2754 and S3504, the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act and the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006, respectively, were failed and passed in that order by the House of Representatives. S2754 was introduced to the House this afternoon and failed by a vote of 273-154, S3504 was passed unanimously by the House and is also expected to be on the President's desk this morning.

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