.- Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) claims to have wide support for proposed legislation to permit government funding for embryo-killing research and expects to pass it this month. Pro-life advocates, the U.S. Catholic bishops and a majority of likely voters have opposed such funding.
An Aug. 23 decision held that federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) violated the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bars the funding of research which destroys or discards human embryos. While some have depicted the ruling as a ban on the research, the decision only restricts federal funding.
DeGetteâs bill is now âon the tableâ for quick action, a House Democratic leadership aide told Politico. DeGette has worked with Democratic leaders who want to ensure her bill does not raise objections from pro-life Democrats.
The billâs 51 co-sponsors include two Republicans, Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware and Mark Kirk of Illinois. Both are running for the U.S. Senate.
âEmbryos and stem cells are two entirely different organisms,â DeGette claimed, saying they involve different types of research.
âThis is a positive wedge issue. Supporters can use it in an election because there is strong public support and its opponents look extreme,â the congresswoman said, according to Politico.
However, a Rasmussen Poll report released last week found that 57 percent of likely voters were opposed to federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and only 33 percent supported it.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) praised the federal court ruling which prohibited the funding, saying it vindicated the USCCBâs longstanding interpretation of the law.
âEach year since 1996, Congress has approved the Dickey amendment to forbid funding any 'research in which' human embryos are harmed or destroyed,â Cardinal Daniel DiNardo explained last week. âThis should ensure that taxpayers are not forced to fund a research project when pursuing that project requires the destruction of human life at its earliest stage.â
âA task of good government is to use its funding power to direct resources where they will best serve and respect human life, not to find new ways to evade this responsibility,â the prelate underscored, expressing hope the court decision will encourage more government commitment to âethically sound avenues of stem cell research.â
Rep. DeGette has previously criticized Catholic commentary on bioethical issues.
In her 2008 book âSex, Science, and Stem Cellsâ she described as a âdownhillâ move the appointment of Catholic ethicist Edmund Pellegrino to head the Presidentâs Council on Bioethics. Discussing public debate on sexuality and reproduction, she lamented âthe many tentacles of the Catholic Church, trying to influence a dialogue thatâs already difficult to begin with.â
Her bill to codify in law President Barack Obamaâs executive order allowing ESCR funding was low on the Senateâs priorities until the recent court ruling, Politico reports.
In July the congresswoman met with many politically vulnerable first-term Democrats to gauge support for her proposal. She reported the âvast majorityâ saw it as a political advantage.
In 2006 and 2007 Congress passed legislation to permit ESCR funding but President George W. Bush vetoed each bill. The July 2007 vote was 247 to 176, with 37 Republicans voting to override and 16 Democrats opposed. The Senate passed the bill 63 to 34.
Last week Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Labor and Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, set a Sept. 16 hearing date to review the federal court ruling.