Dems consider overturning stem cell ban
Democrats in Congress are debating whether to push for an end to the ban on stem cell research once President-elect Barack Obama takes office.
Both Obama and the Democratic leadership have said stem cell research is a top priority, but some worry the fight will get the Democrats' first year off to a rocky start, even if a win is certain in both the House and Senate.
"It is a very divisive issue, and it is a tough way to start," said Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat. "You donít want to stumbleout of the box."
Though the odds are good in Congress, Democrats worry about reelection back home with strategists estimating that up to 70 Democrats could find themselves in competitive races in 2010.
Party leaders are also uncertain whether the effort to overturn the ban on research should begin with Obama or Congress.
"I myself would favor legislation, so it is the law," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette said Obama can overturn Bush's anti-stem cell policies at the "stroke of a pen." DeGett is chief architect of legislation overturning President Bush's 2001 restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.
"Our hobbled economy, mishandled foreign policy, and poor image on the world stage will obviously occupy a great deal of President Obama's attention during his first months in office, but here is one area where he can set right the pendulum of scientific initiative," DeGette wrote in a Wednesday editorial.
Although embryonic cells remain the "gold standard," scientists have been working quickly over the last year to find a way to replicate human embryonic stem cells, without the controversial use of a human embryo.
for the foreseeable future at least, embryonic stem cells will maintain a "primary and probably dominant role" for clinical work, according to Alan Trounson of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.