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House Approves an Increase in Stem-Cell Research

The House votes to expand federal funding for human embryonic stem-cell research. Last year, President Bush cast the only veto of his tenure to keep a similar measure from being enacted. The Congress, then controlled by Republicans, failed to override the veto.

There was little doubt that the bill would pass; it's the very same legislation that passed the House and Senate in the previous Congress.

But Democrats are now in charge, and the recent elections only brought more supporters of stem cell research to Congress, like Steve Kagen (D-WI), one of several medical doctors in the House.

Kagen says the bill "will fulfill the promise of finding a cure to the many life-altering and painful disorders, such as Alzheimer's, juvenile diabetes, heart disease and spinal injuries, and more."

Scientists are far from certain that embryonic stem cells will cure those problems, but many lawmakers have high hopes. Almost all who spoke in support of the bill offered a story of an ailing mother or a sick child.

But for Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin, the issue is more personal. An accidental shooting nicked his spinal cord in 1980, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

After he rolled his wheelchair to the podium and said that doesn't make his support for embryonic-stem cell research easy, Langevin said, "I've come to the conclusion that being pro-life also has to be about caring about those people who are living among us with some of the most challenging conditions and diseases."

In voting, 37 Republicans voted for the bill. But most opposed it; human embryos are destroyed to extract the types of stem cell mentioned in the legislation.

The bill specifically funds research that uses already existing embryos from fertility clinics. But Mike Pence (R-IN) and others say they should be harvested from other sources.

In the end, the bill passed by a vote of 253-174 — short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. It now goes to the Senate, and President Bush has already vowed to veto it.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrea Seabrook
Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.