WASHINGTON -- A Republican senator says he and a Democratic colleague will try to ease President Bush's limit on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research when Congress considers spending bills next month.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and White House chief of staff Andrew Card said Bush will stand by his decision, regardless of what scientific breakthroughs may occur down the road.
The comments on Sunday television news shows followed the president's announcement Thursday that he will limit federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to stem cell lines now in existence.
"While it is unethical to end life in medical research, it is ethical to benefit from research where life and death decisions have already been made," Bush wrote in a guest column Sunday in The New York Times.
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Thompson said the more than 60 embryonic stem cell lines identified by the National Institutes of Health are enough to achieve the basic research needed to continue pursuing cures for juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other diseases.
He said Bush will stand by his decision regardless of what scientists may discover and estimated that stem cell researchers are three to five years from any breakthroughs.
"This president will not equivocate," Thompson said. "He made a very strong statement on that."
"We think there's more than enough lines for this embryonic stem cell research to go forward," Card added on "Fox News Sunday."
But Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he is skeptical those stem cell lines will be enough to find cures.
He said he and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, are sponsoring legislation to broaden the federal funding of stem cell research to include discarded embryos from in-vitro fertilization. It will be an issue when Congress considers federal spending legislation next month, Specter said.
"Every day we lose, we're losing lives," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Dr. John Gearhart of the Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore also questioned whether existing stem cell lines, about half of which are at U.S. laboratories, will be enough.
"We know that there is a shelf life to these, and we are very concerned when we will need more lines, what happens then," Gearhart said on CBS.
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