Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (H.R. 3)/Motion to recommit the bill to the Energy and Commerce Committee with instructions to include language prohibiting entities involved in a certain type of cell transfer associated with human cloning from receiving federal funding
house Roll Call 19 Jan 11, 2007
This vote was on an amendment Republicans sought to add to legislation broadening federal spending on embryonic stem cell research. The amendment would have prohibited research institutions involved in a certain type of cell transfer associated with human cloning from receiving federal funding for stem cell research. Democrats called the amendment a "poison pill."
The underlying legislation would allow federal grants to be used for research on embryos donated by in vitro fertility clinics so long as the embryos were not created for scientific purposes and otherwise would be thrown away. The political and policy fight over this issue began in 2001, when President Bush issued an executive order that allowed federal funding only on embryonic stem cell lines created before August 9, 2001.
The procedural mechanism Republicans attempted to amend the bill is known as a motion to recommit with instructions. A motion to recommit is a move to send the resolution back to committee for revision and represents the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a measure before a final up-or-down vote.
In this case, Republicans sought to send the bill back to the Energy and Commerce Committee with instructions to deny federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to institutions that engage in human cloning. On multiple occasions, the House has voiced its strong opposition to human cloning for both reproductive purposes as well as for research purposes.
Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) said that some of the labs that would receive money under this legislation are currently engaged in human cloning research. According to Weldon, "they are pursuing, through the process that they refer to as somatic cell nuclear transfer, which is human cloning, an agenda to create disease-specific cell lines for embryonic stem cells." He said that at the very least Congress should "make sure that, as we move forward in this brave new world of using human embryos in research and discarding them, that at least we are not incentivizing cloning."
Democrats called the Republican effort "a desperate attempt to derail ethical scientific research on embryonic stem cell research," in the words of Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). She pointed out that not a single person in the House supports reproductive cloning, and the Republican motion was unrelated and a distraction.
"The motion is a thinly veiled attempt to define human life in a manner that can have profound implications beyond the issues raised in H.R. 3," DeGette said. "What the frank intent of this motion is, is to gut H.R. 3 by strapping it with undefined standards and terms that are extraneous to the bill. The motion is a procedural vote without meaning. It is a ruse, a red herring designed to frighten, to obfuscate and to distract."
Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) went further, saying that the motion was "a poison pill in the greatest way."
Furthermore, he said, "it actually eliminates part of the research which may be essential in the implanting of the embryonic stem cells eventually in a human being called somatic cell nuclear transfer, which really doesn't relate ultimately to the human reproductive cloning."
A majority of the House agreed. By a vote of 189 to 238, the motion to recommit was rejected. Eleven Democrats crossed party lines to support it, but their votes were more than canceled out by the 18 Republicans who crossed party lines in opposition. The House thus defeated a motion to add language to an embryonic stem cell research bill to prohibit institutions practicing somatic cell nuclear transfer from receiving federal funds. The bill broadening federal support for embryonic stem cell research went forward without amendment.
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