WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid on Thursday called on Nevada health activists, patients and parents of sick children to increase pressure on senators who voted against a bill that removes restrictions on the use of embryonic stem cells to develop disease cures.
Reid said supporters of embryonic stem cell research are one vote shy in the Senate of being able to override an anticipated veto by President Bush.
“I believe if we can get that extra vote in the Senate that will put tremendous pressure on the House,” said Reid, the Senate majority leader.
The Senate bill passed 63-34 on Wednesday. The absent senators were Democrats expected to reject a Bush veto.
The House passed a stem cell bill in January, 253-174. Embryonic stem cell backers in the House were said to be about three dozen votes short of the two-thirds needed for an override.
“You should make your contacts, network around the country for those senators who did not vote with us,” Reid said on a conference call with representatives of Nevada health groups including the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Las Vegas, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the American Diabetes Association.
“You should go to the blogs, the newspapers, talk radio, any place you can go to focus these individuals to do the right thing,” Reid said.
Also on the call were patients and parents of children with debilitating disorders. All shared a belief that embryonic stem cells hold promise for cures someday.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., voted against the bill, saying in a statement that manipulating embryonic stem cells raised “the moral dilemma of destroying life in the process.”
Reid differed, saying research would involve “excess embryos that would otherwise be trashed, thrown away. “Shall we just throw them away or should we use them for medical research,” Reid said. “That is a simple choice for me.”
Ensign is the only one of five Nevada lawmakers who has voted against expanded research into embryonic stem cells, and activists said they do not expect to persuade him to switch his position. Reid said stem cell research supporters are focusing on Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H.
“I don’t think we should give up on anybody,” Reid said. “Anybody who walks down the aisle has the opportunity to vote anew each time.”