WASHINGTON – The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to reject restrictions President Bush has placed on embryonic stem-cell research. Bush plans to veto the bill, but his restrictions may not last for long after his presidency.
The candidates running to succeed Bush largely endorse federally supported stem-cell research. That support, coupled with the backing of a majority of Americans, means change is almost certain.
Bush has cast stem-cell research as a moral issue intimately connected to the question of when life begins, a question that echoed throughout the second day of Senate debate. Bush used the only veto of his career to overturn a similar bill last year.
But the majority of leading Democratic and Republican candidates support research on embryonic stem cells.
Former Sen. John Edwards, a North Carolina Democrat, strongly supports the research, while Democratic hopefuls Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., co-sponsored the Senate bill that would expand the number of embryonic stem-cell lines eligible for federally funded research.
That bill, known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, or S5, passed 63-34. Sixty-seven votes are needed to overturn a presidential veto. The House passed its version of the bill in January, 253-174, also short of the votes necessary to override a veto.
Candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., supports expanded funding for embryonic stem-cell research, as long as embryos are not intentionally created for research.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican who has few fans among conservatives for his support for abortion, has taken a fuzzy position.
Mitt Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, supported embryonic stem-cell research before 2005, but now strikes a balance. He still supports research with cells that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics, but he opposes federal funding for that work.
Only Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., opposes almost all embryonic stem-cell research. He led much of the debate on a second stem-cell bill the Senate approved 70-28. Penned by conservatives and the White House, it would expand funding for research on dead embryonic cells and other types of stem cells.