- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Senate Republicans have put their hopes on six Catholic Democrats to defeat an embryonic stem-cell research bill tomorrow.

But the Catholic voting bloc has cracked, and it appears that a Democratic effort to pick off members of a promised filibuster likely will succeed, sources close to the issue said.

Sen. Roy P. Dyson, Southern Maryland Democrat, looks to be the swing vote, sources said.

Republican leaders were confident Friday that they had at least five solid Democratic votes, in addition to their 14, needed for the 19 required to sustain a filibuster in the 47-member Senate.

“There’s no way they can successfully change the bill to pick off our votes,” said Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Eastern Shore Republican.

Mr. Stoltzfus acknowledged that the voting bloc of six had likely lost Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr., Prince George’s Democrat.

But Mr. Stoltzfus was confident in the votes of Mr. Dyson; Sens. James E. DeGrange Sr. and Philip C. Jimeno, Anne Arundel Democrats; Leo E. Green, Prince George’s Democrat; and Norman R. Stone Jr., Baltimore County Democrat.

Four of those senators were solidly in favor of stopping the bill sponsored by Sen. Paula Colodny Hollinger, the Baltimore County Democrat running for Congress, that aims to fund embryonic stem-cell research. “It’s life. It’s destroying a human embryo,” Mr. Jimeno said.

“I don’t intend to change my vote.” Mr. DeGrange said, “I’m absolutely solid, without question.”

Mr. Dyson was noncommittal. When asked if he might budge off a filibuster, he said, “This thing is so fluid right now.” He would not answer whether he thinks an embryo is a form of human life.

“I vote pro-life and will continue to do so,” Mr. Dyson said.

Nancy Fortier, associate director for the Respect for Life department of the Maryland Catholic Conference, said she would “personally [have] a hard time believing” that Mr. Dyson might vote for embryonic stem-cell research.

“He is one of our staunch pro-life leaders,” Ms. Fortier said. “We don’t have any doubts about him. He realizes the magnitude of this. This is a huge pro-life issue. We’ve activated a lot of prayer chains to pray that he sticks it out.”

But Mr. Giannetti said, “There is a lot of work behind the scenes to try to get a bill that will be acceptable to senators on both sides of the aisle. It’s not an easy task, because the moral issues are so great.”

Sen. James Brochin, Baltimore County Democrat, lobbied Mr. Stone as they walked to their offices after the session Friday.

“If you or anyone in your family had Parkinson’s disease, you would depend on this research,” Mr. Brochin told Mr. Stone.

“But I think it creates a lot of problems,” Mr. Stone said.

Embryonic stem-cell research is opposed by many because the embryo is a fertilized egg that has not yet been placed in a woman’s uterus, but could develop into a baby if that happened.

Opponents of embryonic stem-cell research say that adult stem cells have already yielded medical treatments for dozens of degenerative diseases. Proponents say there is incredible potential for actual cures from embryonic stem cells for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Mr. Giannetti said he thinks “an embryo is a form of human life,” but that he would vote for a bill that allows research.

“I’m a Catholic and the whole specter of embryonic stem-cell research is very concerning for me. Other people don’t share my concerns,” he said.

Susan O’Brien, with Maryland Families for Stem Cell Research, which promotes research with embryos, said she was confident that the filibuster would fall apart.

“They’ll be able to vote against the bill, but I believe they will not support efforts to keep the legislature from doing the rest of its work,” Ms. O’Brien said. “They’ll get to a point where they have to move on with other issues.”

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