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BREAKING NEWS ~ Bush vetoes stem cell research bill

[JURIST] President Bush on Wednesday vetoed a bill to increase federal funding for embryonic stem cell research [JURIST news archive] in what is the first presidential veto during his time in office. The US Senate passed [JURIST report] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act [PDF text; HR 810 summary] Tuesday in a 63-37 vote, just four votes short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to survive a presidential veto. Earlier this week, Bush said he would veto [JURIST report] federal funding for stem cell research because many people consider the destruction of embryos murder [press briefing], according to White House press secretary Tony Snow.

Last year, the House of Representatives passed the bill, but also fell 50 votes short of the two-thirds supermajority [JURIST report] required to bypass a veto. Bill supporters expressed disappointment over the veto, but also expressed optimism that the bill will be able to vote by a veto-proof margin next year, after the November mid-term elections. AP has more.

3:21 PM ET - In remarks on stem cell research policy [transcript] Wednesday, Bush said:

It makes no sense to say that you're in favor of finding cures for terrible diseases as quickly as possible, and then block a bill that would authorize funding for promising and ethical stem cell research. At a moment when ethical alternatives are becoming available, we cannot lose the opportunity to conduct research that would give hope to those suffering from terrible diseases, and help move our nation beyond the current controversies over embryonic stem cell research.

We must pursue this research. And so I direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Leavitt, and the Director of the National Institutes of Health to use all the tools at their disposal to aid the search for stem cell techniques that advance promising medical science in an ethical and morally responsible way.

Unfortunately, Congress has sent me a bill that fails to meet this ethical test. This legislation would overturn the balanced policy on embryonic stem cell research that my administration has followed for the past five years. This bill would also undermine the principle that Congress, itself, has followed for more than a decade, when it has prohibited federal funding for research that destroys human embryos.

If this bill would have become law, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos. And I'm not going to allow it.

I made it clear to the Congress that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line. I felt like crossing this line would be a mistake, and once crossed, we would find it almost impossible to turn back. Crossing the line would needlessly encourage a conflict between science and ethics that can only do damage to both, and to our nation as a whole. If we're to find the right ways to advance ethical medical research, we must also be willing, when necessary, to reject the wrong ways. So today, I'm keeping the promise I made to the American people by returning this bill to Congress with my veto.
Also Wednesday, Bush signed the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act [text; S 3504 summary], which will prohibit "fetal farming," the method of creating fetuses for the sole purpose of research, after both the House and Senate passed the bill unanimously. A third bill, the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act [S 2754 bill summary], was passed by the Senate, but failed to receive enough votes [AP report] in the House.

6:55 PM ET - AP is reporting that a House vote to override Bush's veto [White House message] of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act has failed.

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