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Senate Passes Ban on DNA Discrimination

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Senate Passes Ban on DNA Discrimination

U.S.

Senate Passes Ban on DNA Discrimination

Senate Passes Ban on DNA Discrimination

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The Senate passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act on Thursday. It mandates equal treatment in employment and insurance. Congressional observers say the House will likely pass the bill. If it reaches his desk, President Bush plans to sign it.

BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is The Bryant Park Project

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, biscuits. I'm Rachel Martin.

MKE PESCA, host:

And I'm Mike Pesca. It's Friday, April 25th, 2008.

MARTIN: Michael, we made it to Friday.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: That's good. You mean cookie-like biscuits?

MARTIN: I mean...

PESCA: Cookie biscuits.

MARTIN: Cookie biscuits. This is a debate, right? I don't really understand why Europeans insist on calling cookies biscuits. I like the Europeans, but I don't under - I think a biscuit is supposed to be savory, a cookie is sweet. But not in their world, it's all crazy.

PESCA: That's right. What do they call biscuits? The doughy, delicious...

MARTIN: Rolls.

PESCA: Bread.

MARTIN: Rolls.

PESCA: What do they call rolls? What we have to do, is find...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: We have to ask the question, until we get to the word that they have no equivalent for. Like it all goes, what do they call rolls? They call rolls danish. What do they call danish? They call Danish donuts.

MARTIN: People.

PESCA: What do they call donuts? They call donuts trucks.

MARTIN: OK, I got to stop you, I got to stop you.

PESCA: And what do they call trucks? They call trucks lorries, and that's where it ends!

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: See how that works?

MARTIN: Why are we talking about this? Because today is Anzac Day. It is actually a very solemn day in Australia. It's a day that people in Australia and New Zealand remember World War I, sacrifices their soldiers made there, and our very own Manoli Weatherall, made some Australian Anzac biscuits to celebrate.

PESCA: And we will take a look at new movies out today, with Daniel Holloway. The new Tina Fey, Amy Poehler pick is out, "Baby Mama". That, plus a new one from Errol Morris, and a thriller, or purported thriller, starring Ewan McGregor and Michelle Williams.

MARTIN: And, we'll have a report from ROLFCON, rolling on the floor, laughing perhaps. The nerdiest gathering outside of JPL, it's a convention of Internet, news, and academics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our very own Ian Chillag is there in the BPP News chopper.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Do we have one of those?

PESCA: He just beats his chest like this.

(Soundbite of chest-beating, King-Kong style)

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: (Yelling) Here, above ROFLCON, it's going smoothly.

MARTIN: He will join us with a live, on-the-scene report, hopefully with no chest-beating. We'll get the day's headlines in just a minute. But first...

(Soundbite of music)

PESCA: Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy is calling it the first civil rights bill of the new century. A law the Senate passed yesterday would prohibit health insurance companies and employers, from using DNA test results to make decisions about who gets what kind of health insurance, and who gets hired or fired.

MARTIN: It's called the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act. Senator Mike Enzi, Republican from Wyoming, explained yesterday, on the Senate floor, why he thinks it's so important.

Senator MICHAEL ENZI (Republican, Wyoming): Insurance companies sometimes want a blood test. That blood test will tell far more than it ever did in the history of the world, and that can have some dire consequences. Except for this bill. This bill will protect people.

PESCA: In Connecticut, Democrat Chris Dodd said DNA testing should not be misused.

Senator CHRISTOPHER DODD (Democrat, Connecticut): We all potentially have a genetic make up that makes us more susceptible to some kind of an ailment, and that possibility, should not be the obstruction to an insurance policy, or a job.

MARTIN: The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 95 to zero, now it goes to the House, where another version of the bill passed last year 420 to three. But the history of this legislation goes back further, the Senate passed similar bills in 2003 and 2005, but the House didn't act. Then, when the House did pass a bill last year, it was held up in the Senate by Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn. How does this whole thing work again?

(Soundbite of song "I'm Just a Bill" from TV cartoon "Schoolhouse Rock")

Mr. JACK SHELDON: (Singing) Well, now I'm stuck in committee and I'll sit here and wait while a few key Congressmen discuss and debate, whether they should let me be a law. Oh, how I hope...

PESCA: Actually, it didn't get stuck in committee. Senator Coburn put a hold on the bill, but there are no lyrics for that, and we wanted to play the song. The senator was concerned that the bill might lead to lawsuits, and he also said that the bill contained an exception for allowing discrimination based on genes from embryos and fetuses. The bill's language was changed to the satisfaction of the pro-life senator, and it sailed through the Senate just in time for today, which I found out was National DNA Day, who knew?

MARTIN: Not me. The House is expected to vote next week and passage seems all but certain. President Bush supports the legislation, so barring a pretty shocking turn around, this bill is going to become a law. Here's what that will sound like.

(Soundbite of song "I'm Just a Bill" from TV cartoon "Schoolhouse Rock")

Mr. SHELDON: (Singing) He signed you, Bill. Now you're a law. Oh yes.

PESCA: And one fun fact. We said that Senate vote was 95 to zero. Can you guess, Rachel, what activity the five non - the majority of the five non-voting senators are in engaged in as we speak?

MARTIN: Reading about Guam?

PESCA: They're running for president.

MARTIN: Yeah

PESCA: Yeah. Obama, Clinton, and McCain missed the vote. You can go npr.org throughout the day for updates on this and other stories. Now, let's get to some more of today's headlines. And over there is the BPP's Mark Garrison.

BILL WOLFF: This is NPR.

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