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Stem cell, cloning bills dropped

By Dana Bash

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senators dropped controversial measures on stem cell research and cloning Thursday because they were threatening to further delay work on key must-pass spending bills Congress is hurrying to approve.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, had added language to the Labor, Health and Human Services spending bill that would have allowed couples to donate for research embryos that otherwise would have been discarded, going beyond President Bush's position on stem cells.

But in a sign of the changed times, Specter and other supporters of broader federal funding for stem cell research than the administration backs agreed to defer their fight until next year.

In Depth: The stem cell debate 

"There is no stomach for it right now," said one supporter, referring to the different atmosphere in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Less than three months ago, the fight over embryonic stem cell research topped the political debate in Washington. President Bush delivered the first address to the nation to unveil and explain his position.

When Bush said he would allow federal funds to be used only for 64 stem cell lines the administration said already exist, supporters of more liberal use of taxpayer dollars for the research -- including Specter and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota -- vowed to take the issue before Congress.

Backed by a White House veto threat, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, an ardent opponent of embryonic stem cell research, promised to filibuster the spending bill until Specter dropped the broader stem cell language.

The Pennsylvania Republican and Daschle agreed to drop the provision, saying they will hold hearings on the issue next February or March.

In exchange, Brownback backed off amendments which would have banned human cloning and prohibited creating animal-human hybrid embryos.


• Stem Cells: A Primer, National Institutes of Health, May 2000

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