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Senate to debate stem cell research

Politics before science?

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The eternally thorny issue of stem cell research comes before the US Senate today, in a debate that is as much about politics as science.

The US lawmakers will consider three bills on stem cells: one of which would overturn restrictions on research funding put in place by Bush in 2001, and would pave the way for federal funding for research using embryonic stem cells, using embryos created for IVF that would otherwise be destroyed.

Although the plans would outlaw embryo farming, President Bush has said he will veto this, if it passes, despite wide Republican support for the bill. It would be the first veto of his presidency, and neither the House nor the Senate is likely to have enough support for the bill to override a veto.

And this is where the political wrangling becomes almost more significant than the content of the bills, because polls show huge levels - 70 per cent - of public support for the proposals.

Senator Bill Frist, the Majority Leader, is expected to vote for all three bills. He is also widely expected to run for the top job in 2008, and is seen as needing an image overhaul if he is to appeal to moderate Republicans.

The debate is likely to run into Tuesday's session before a vote, but all three bills are expected to pass. ®

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