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Senators Vote to Simultaneously Provide and Block Funds for Stem Cell Research

April 12, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Did President Bush and Senate Republicans pull a fast one yesterday on stem-cell-research-supporting Democrats? For some reason, eighteen Senate Democrats voted “aye” yesterday on two contradictory bills: one that would provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and another that would put in place a law to permanently block federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

S.30, the bill that would block federal funding, was presented by Norm Coleman (R, MN) (pictured at right) as a compromised alternative to S.5. President Bush plans to veto S.5 because, as he says, it goes beyond a “moral boundary.” S.30 was advertised as a bill to provide stem cell research funding without going beyond that boundary, and President Bush “strongly supports” it because it only allows funding for research being done on stem cells that have died naturally. However, a little known provision, which may be the real reason for the President’s strong support, was also attached to the bill and approved a long with it.

Ralph Dittman at The Huffington Post provides this description of the way the provision in S.30 works:

>S. 30 elevates the Dickey Amendment from an ephemeral appropriations bill rider to a statute. (This in sec. 3 enacting sec. 498D(a) of the Public Health Service Act with proviso carried over from the Dickey Amendment.) If that bill, or any other bill incorporating that provision, is adopted by the House, the statute will bind unless repealed by a subsequent act of Congress signed by the President.

The Dickey Amendment “prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from using appropriated funds for the creation of human embryos for research purposes or for research in which human embryos are destroyed.” So, if S.30 is approved by the House of Representatives, it will ensure that federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is blocked until a future President and Congress agree to unblock it. As it stands right now, Democratic appropriators, now that they have majority status, could choose not to include the amendment in their appropriations bill. President Bush would then have to veto all HHS funds in order to continue his blockade of stem cell research funding. It would be politically calamitous for him to sign to cut funding for all programs funded by the Labor-HHS-Education in order to block funding for stem cell research, which the majority of Americans support.

If S.30 becomes law, Congressional Republicans will have immortalized President Bush’s blockade of funding for stem cell research while simultaneously looking like level-headed negotiators.

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