- The Washington Times - Friday, June 14, 2002

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday washed his hands of the human-cloning matter after senators were unable to agree on a process to bring competing human-cloning bills to the Senate floor.
"I feel like I've fulfilled my obligation," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "I don't have any further designs, further plans to bring the bill back."
He added that he will leave it to the cloning-bill sponsors "to decide what they want to do."
Mr. Daschle tried to bring the two bills to the floor earlier this week and was blocked by Sen. Sam Brownback, who felt the process Democrats proposed was unfair to his bill, which would ban the cloning of human embryos for any purpose.
Mr. Brownback, Kansas Republican, said yesterday the issue is not dead and he and bill co-sponsor Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, will now likely resort to a strategy of offering human-cloning amendments to other pieces of legislation in the Senate.
"It is clear that on the issue of cloning, the objective of the Senate Democrat majority is to obstruct the will of the vast majority of the American people, a bipartisan majority in the House and the president," Mr. Brownback said in a statement issued Wednesday. "We will seek all possible avenues in our attempt to stop human cloning and get the current leadership to take this issue up fairly."
The House has already passed legislation banning the cloning of human embryos.
Mr. Daschle proposed a unanimous consent motion Wednesday to bring to the Senate floor Mr. Brownback's bill and a competing cloning bill that Mr. Daschle favors. But Mr. Brownback blocked the motion because he said it "would have dictated the outcome."
The competing human-cloning bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania would ban the implantation of a cloned human embryo into a uterus, but would allow embryos to be cloned to extract their stem cells for medical research purposes.
With the floor debate structure Mr. Daschle insisted on, both bills would have been on the floor today and Monday, and there would have been cloture votes on Tuesday first on the Brownback-Landrieu bill and then on the Feinstein-Specter bill.
Mr. Brownback said that structure was designed to ensure that the latter bill would win because if his bill was voted on first and failed, some of its supporters would then have also voted for the second bill in order to pass some sort of a human-cloning ban, even if only a partial one.
The cloning issue could still come to the Senate floor if the sponsors of either bill get the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Both sides are aggressively courting a group of about 15 senators who have not yet committed to vote for either bill, Mr. Brownback said.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, agreed that Mr. Daschle had indeed fulfilled his obligation. Mr. Lott said that while he truly wanted the issue to come to the floor, there are more pressing matters the Senate should now turn to, namely the defense authorization bill.
Still, others strongly criticized the way Mr. Daschle has handled the issue.
"A May Gallup poll found 61 percent of Americans opposed to cloning human embryos for research, but Senator Daschle and most Senate Democrats have once again blocked the only bill that would really ban human cloning and human embryo farms," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.
Mr. Brownback is continuing to pitch to senators a scaled-back version of his bill that would ban the cloning of human embryos for two years, but does not yet have a head count of how many would support that version.
But Mr. Brownback said his first move will probably be to offer a proposal to prohibit patents from being issued for cloned human embryos.


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