- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — The Senate passed a stem-cell research bill yesterday that would allow for the use of embryos and adult stem cells, leaving House lawmakers to accept it or push for embryonic research only, which could kill the legislation.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat. “We need a compromise. … I think the House may be well advised to look at the Senate bill and say: ‘We’ll take the best option we have.’ ”

The House passed a bill March 3 that would spend $25 million on embryonic stem-cell research. However, research with adult or umbilical cord blood stem cells was excluded from the bill.

The similar Senate bill was met with a Republican-led filibuster that was joined by five Catholic Democrats.

The five-hour filibuster ended Wednesday when one of the Catholic Democrats, Sen. Roy Dyson, of Southern Maryland, defected and voted to end the debate.

Mr. Dyson then added an amendment to include adult stem-cell research as well.

However, he voted against the bill yesterday. He could not be reached late last night for comment.

The Senate approved the bill, with only one Republican, Sandra B. Schrader, of Howard County, voting for it. Five Democrats voted against it.

The bill does not require Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, to fund the research. It states only that he “may” fund it.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said there is “no real urgency” to bring the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote.

The legislative session is scheduled to end April 10.

“Obviously, if you’re an embryonic stem-cell proponent, the House bill is a much stronger bill than the Senate bill,” Mr. Busch said.

The Senate bill sponsor, Paula C. Hollinger, Baltimore Democrat, thinks the House will accept the bill “the way it is.”

The General Assembly’s failure to pass the legislation would leave a proposal by Mr. Ehrlich to fund stem-cell research. He has proposed $20 million for the research in his budget.

Under Mr. Ehrlich’s proposal, a science and ethics commission appointed by a quasi-government agency, in coordination with the governor’s office, would decide whether to fund research using embryos.

Mr. Ehrlich said the Senate’s bill was “moving in the right direction,” which he described as “toward the administration’s position.”

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

Opponents of embryonic stem-cell 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.

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