Senate Lacks Votes for Stem Cell Override

Monday, August 1st 2005, 10:08 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senate supporters of a measure to ease restrictions on embryonic stem cell research lack the votes to override a threatened veto by President Bush, a top proponent of the research says.

A favorable Senate vote is considered more likely now that Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has reversed his position to support more federal dollars for research. However, a Senate vote would not matter if, as lawmakers predicted, a Bush veto stands in the House.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who is sponsoring a bill easing restrictions that Bush put in place, said Frist gave his side ``a big boost.'' A vote on the measure could come in September.

While a bill would pass the Senate with a simple majority, 67 senators would be needed to fend off a veto by Bush if all 100 senators voted.

``My analysis is that we have 62 votes at the present time, and we've got about 15 more people who are thinking it over,'' Specter said Sunday on CBS' ``Face the Nation.'' ``I believe that by the time the vote comes up, we'll have 67.''

Appearing with Specter, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a leading opponent of embryonic stem cell research, countered: ``You don't have the votes in the House of Representatives to overcome a presidential veto.''

The bill passed the House in May by 44 votes, far below the two-thirds majority in the 435-member House needed to override a veto. However, Specter said Frist's endorsement could provide ``a little political cover'' for House members to vote to override.

Supporters of the research believe that stem cells, which potentially can grow into any type of tissue in the body, hold the promise of one day treating Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, cancer, diabetes, spinal cord injuries and more.

``It's one of the most exciting medical findings of our age,'' Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said on CNN's ``Late Edition.''

However, even supporters allow that successful stem cell treatments are still years away. Foes of the research consider it the equivalent of abortion because embryos must be destroyed to harvest the stem cells.

``And this is an innocent human life,'' Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said on ABC's ``This Week.'' ``You're destroying this life for the purpose of research which has questionable value.''

Santorum said that ``without question, the president will veto this.''

Bush in 2001 banned federal dollars for stem cell research beyond existing cell lines, although private groups have paid for some new research. The bill in Congress would lift Bush's restrictions.