Lawmakers at a press conference on Tuesday urged Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to schedule debate on a bill (HR 810/S 471) that would expand federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research after a poll was released by the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research that says a majority of U.S. residents support such research, CQ HealthBeat reports (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 5/16). President Bush on Aug. 9, 2001, announced a policy that allows federal funding for embryonic stem cell research only when it uses stem cell lines created on or before that date. The bill would allow federal funding for research using stem cells derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients. Bush has threatened to veto the embryonic stem cell bill if is passed by the Senate (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 5/16). Frist in October 2005 agreed to make consideration of the bill a priority when Congress reconvened in January 2006, according to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 5/5). Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has said he supports the bill, earlier this month said he wants Frist to schedule the debate on a measure by May 24, which would be one year after the House passed the legislation (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 5/16). Hatch at the conference said, "We are pleased that [Frist] backs this bill and has promised us a vote this spring," adding, "Well, spring is here and we're looking forward to that vote." Hatch also said that supporters of the legislation are "getting close to working out an agreement" with Frist to bring the bill to the Senate for debate. Frist last week said that there will be three separate bills on stem cell research that will be debated this summer but he did not stipulate which measures. He said, "I support (research on) stem cells both embryonic and adult, ... but it has to be done in a moral and ethical way." According to CQ HealthBeat, other pending stem cell measures include legislation (S 2754), introduced by Sens. Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, that would provide funding for NIH to research and create ways to retrieve pluripotent stem cells -- which, like embryonic stem cells, can produce all types of tissues in the body -- without destroying an embryo; a proposal (S 658), sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), that would prohibit human cloning for research and reproductive purposes; and a bill (S 1520) sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), that also would ban human cloning for reproductive purposes but not for therapeutic or research reasons, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 5/16).

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