WASHINGTON – Despite a boost from the majority leader, there still is not enough Senate support now to override a threatened veto if Congress tries to ease restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, a key proponent said Sunday.
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, the Senate vote will not matter if, as lawmakers predict, a veto by President Bush stands in the House.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who is sponsoring a bill to ease restrictions that Bush put in place, said Frist gave his side “a big boost.” A vote on the bill 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 on “Face the Nation” on CBS-TV on Sunday. “I believe that by the time the vote comes up, we’ll have 67.”
On the same program, a leading opponent of embryonic stem cell research, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., 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, well under the two-thirds majority of 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 a veto.
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