- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — The Senate is expected to pass legislation today allowing stem-cell research using human embryos, after a five-hour filibuster that resulted in lawmakers amending the bill to include research on adult stem cells.

“It’s a victory,” said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the bill and is running for Congress.

Republican leaders also claimed victory, saying the filibuster led to the removal of restrictions on adult stem-cell research and to a requirement to fund both types of research each year. Mrs. Hollinger’s bill originally called for $25 million annually for only embryonic stem-cell research.

“When you come in with a bill that will spend $25 million a year on only one type of funding and it leaves the chamber with no funding — the governor doesn’t have to put money in the budget and it doesn’t only have to be embryonic stem-cell research. I think that’s pretty good,” said Minority Whip Andrew P. Harris, Baltimore Republican.

Mrs. Hollinger, who sponsored a similar bill last year, stuck to her insistence during the debate yesterday that research on human embryos remain the top priority.

Mr. Harris and other senators challenged language that narrowly defined a stem cell, excluding certain types of adult stem cells from being eligible for funding.

Mrs. Hollinger refused to budge, saying scientists had told her that without such language the bill would have no scientific merit.

The House passed a bill Friday that funds only embryonic stem-cell research. Mrs. Hollinger said she thought the House would accept the Senate’s bill.

Senators debated amendments to the bill for about 90 minutes after the filibuster ended.

Five Democratic Catholics joined the 14 Republicans in the filibuster to reach the minimum number of votes to sustain the procedure.

Sen. Roy Dyson, one of the five Democrats, ended the filibuster at 3 p.m. by voting to end the debate, after voting twice to continue.

Mr. Dyson, Southern Maryland Democrat, also introduced two amendments to the bill, both of which were passed. One amendment removed a clause that gave priority to research that is “unlikely to receive timely or sufficient federal funding.”

President Bush in 2001 limited federal funds for stem-cell research on 60 existing lines of embryos, along with research using adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood cells.

An embryo is a fertilized egg that has not been placed in a uterus.

Opponents of embryonic research say embryos are a form of human life, which makes embryonic stem-cell research a form of abortion. They also say adult stem cells have yielded treatments for dozens of degenerative diseases, and that research with embryos is unproven.

Supporters say there is incredible potential for cures from embryonic stem cells.

Mr. Dyson’s second amendment added two bioethicists to a 12-member Stem Cell Research Commission that will award research grants.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican running for re-election, included $20 million in his budget proposal for stem-cell research, but there were no specifics on whether it would fund research with embryos or only adult stem cells.

Mr. Ehrlich proposed to leave those decisions to a commission appointed by a quasi-government agency, in coordination with his administration.

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