The Senate gave strong approval to a measure that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The House has already approved the measure and now the stage is set for President Bush to issue his first veto in 5 and a half years in office.
The Senate did not pass the bill by a veto-proof margin. A roll-call vote on the expansion resulted in a 63-37 passage.
Debate over the measure was personal and political. Senators cited their own and their families' medical histories, pointing to diseases that could perhaps be cured through research using embryonic stem cells.
Oregon Republican Gordon Smith referred to the death of several family members, including his cousin, former Rep. Morris Udall, from Parkinson's disease as he issued a plea to President Bush: "We will all die, Mr. President. But no one should die as they died."
Smith was one of several lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who usually oppose abortion rights but voted in favor of the stem-cell research bill. Others, including Republican Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, remained adamant that destroying embryos for research was destroying human life.
The Senate approved three separate bills. The first bans so-called fetal farming, the largely hypothetical growing of embryos specifically for stem cell research. A second encourages stem cell research that doesn't destroy embryos. Both were adopted unanimously.
The third bill was more problematic.It ends President Bush's prohibition on federal funding to develop new embryonic stem cell lines.
The president has consistently said that if the legislation reaches his desk he will veto it -- the first veto of his presidency.