10 June 2007
The US House of Representatives has voted 247 to 176 in favour of new legislation to remove some of the current restrictions placed on the use of federal funding for stem-cell research; the Senate passed it earlier this year. A similar vote passed the legislation last year, but Republican President George W. Bush issued a veto (see news story), and reportedly intends to do so again; a presidential veto can only be overridden by a majority vote of at least two-thirds.
Proponents of the legislation, which would lift the current restrictions limiting researchers to apply for federal funding for research using human embryonic stem-cell lines only where those cell lines were established before 9th August 2001, claim that stem cell research has massive potential for the treatment of serious medical conditions. Opponents object to the use of stem-cells derived from human embryos, since the process destroys the embryos. In a statement President Bush reportedly said: "If this bill were to become law, American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos…Crossing that line would be a grave mistake. For that reason, I will veto the bill passed today" (see BBC news story).
The day before the stem cell bill, the House voted 213-204 against a bill to ban human reproductive cloning, which would have required a two-thirds majority to be passed. Democrats were largely in favour of the bill, but Republicans said that it would support the creation of cloned human embryos for purposes other than reproduction, ie. medical research.