The Washington Post reported that House backers of legislation that would loosen restrictions imposed by President Bush in 2001 say they have 201 co-sponsors and enough private commitments to put them at or over the 218 votes needed to pass.

See our earlier report here.

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 would permit federal money to fund research on stem cells taken from days-old embryos stored in freezers at fertility clinics and donated by couples who no longer need them. The cells show great promise in treating a variety of diseases and injuries because they are able to morph into all kinds of tissues, but they are controversial because the embryos must be destroyed to retrieve the cells.

Specifically, the Act states that human embryonic stem cells would be eligible for use in any research using federal support if the cells meet each of the following:

(1) The stem cells were derived from human embryos that have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment.

(2) Prior to the consideration of embryo donation and through consultation with the individuals seeking fertility treatment, it was determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded.

(3) The individuals seeking fertility treatment donated the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving any financial or other inducements to make the donation.

Opponents, with the support of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), are hoping to persuade undecided Republicans to vote instead for a bill sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), known as the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2005, that would create a national umbilical cord blood bank. Cord blood cells display some of the same traits as embryonic stem cells but are more limited in the types of tissues they can become. DeLay said that he was “adamantly opposed” to the Castle bill.

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