WASHINGTON – The Senate voted Tuesday after two days of emotional debate to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and sent the measure to President Bush for a promised veto, the first of his presidency.
The bill passed 63-37, four votes short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override Bush’s veto. The president left little doubt he would reject the bill despite late appeals on its behalf from fellow Republicans Nancy Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“The simple answer is he thinks murder’s wrong,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow. “The president is not going to get on the slippery slope of taking something living and making it dead for the purposes of scientific research.”
Senate supporters of the bill likened that logic to opposition suffered by Galileo, Christopher Columbus and others who were rebuked in their time but vindicated later.
Polls show as much as 70 percent public support for embryonic stem cell research.
“There has been an upsurge of demand,” said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. Support for the legislation “has crossed every line we could imagine, certainly partisan lines, ethnic, racial, geographic lines.”
The Senate also passed two related measures that Bush was expected to sign into law.
One would encourage stem cell research using cells from sources other than embryos in an effort to cure diseases and treat injuries. The other would ban “fetal farming,” the possibility of growing and aborting fetuses for research.
Those two bills were headed for a House vote later Tuesday. Bush was expected to sign them when he vetoes the embryonic stem cell research bill, as early as Wednesday.