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Stem Cell Bill Nerve-Wrackingly Close to a Veto-Proof Majority

April 11, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

S.5, the bill to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, will be voted on it the Senate in a matter of hours. President Bush has vowed to veto the bill if it passes. He vetoed this same bill when Congress approved it last year. This time around, the Senate is ever so close to having the two-thirds majority support that they need to override his veto and enact the bill anyways. Yesterday, two supporters of the bill disagreed over whether or not they have two-thirds support:

>The November 2006 elections delivered several new Democratic senators who back the embryonic research bill, but Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and other supporters appear to be one vote short of an override. That wasn’t Harkin’s outlook Tuesday; he expressed optimism about finding the extra vote but did not provide a name.
>“I really do believe we have the 67 votes,” he said. “I’ll be surprised if we don’t.”
>Harkin’s partner across the aisle, Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, had a different calculation. “I think we could have as many as 66 [votes], counting Tim Johnson,” said Hatch, an opponent of abortion rights but a supporter of embryonic stem cell research.

Today, Think Progress declared that the deciding vote is in the hands of Senator John Sununu (R, NH):

>But stem cell advocates believe they are now just one vote shy of the 67 needed to overturn the veto. The key senator hanging in the balance is New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu®.
>Sununu’s ideological alliance with President Bush puts him in an extremely lonely position. Last year, Sununu was the only member of New Hampshire’s entire congressional delegation to oppose embryonic stem cell research.
He’s also out of step with the members of his own state party. New Hampshire Republicans support stem cell research by a 2-to-1 margin, according to a SurveyUSA poll from January.

If the bill does find two-thirds majority support, attention will then turn to the House of Representatives. When they passed the bill during their first 100 legislative hours, there was not a veto-proof majority voting in favor. However, if the Senate gets a veto-proof majority today, some Representatives who voted against the bill in January will likely change their votes to avoid obstructing the passage of this bill, which has major public support and years of momentum behind it in Congress.

If two-thirds of the Senate does not vote for the bill today, Harkin has a plan to pass it another way:

>…senior Democratic senator, Tom Harkin of Iowa, has vowed that if President Bush again vetoes a stem cell research bill, he will try to attach it to any “must do” legislation available.
>“The president has to understand this is not going to go away,” Harkin said after a hearing on the issue Jan. 19.

Also, here is an interesting idea for how Senate Democrats could pass this bill: rename it to be called the “Ronald Reagan Life Legacy Act.”

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