Debates on human cloning in the US Senate, originally scheduled to take place in February or March and, later, tentatively scheduled for this week, now seem certain not to take place in the near future.
The sponsors of both of the bills before the Senate - one proposing a ban on all forms of cloning and the other proposing to ban cloning for reproductive purposes only - have undertaken rewrites of their original bills in order to try and claim votes from the ten or so Senators who, as yet, are thought to be undecided as to which way to vote. Of 100 Senators, 60 votes on either side would be needed for either of the bills to pass to the next stage.
In the light of the uncertainty that either of the bills would obtain the required number of votes, Senator Sam Brownback, a well-known opponent of cloning and sponsor of the total ban, announced last week that he would propose a two-year moratorium on all cloning procedures rather than a total legislative ban. At the same time, Senator Tom Daschle, the majority leader, stated that the cloning debate could have begun as early as last Friday, with a vote potentially scheduled for Tuesday 18 June. Daschle, and the sponsors of the bill that would allow cloning for medical research purposes, were becoming increasingly confident that the 60 votes needed could be obtained. President Bush, however, has reiterated his support for a total ban.
Despite the modifications being made by both sides, discussions regarding the structure of the debate of the competing bills broke down towards the end of last week, meaning that further delay is now inevitable. The Senate debate is now on 'indefinite hold', and Daschle has told reporters that the odds of a debate any time this year have been 'substantially reduced'. Brownback has said that he will 'explore alternatives' to a full debate, perhaps by offering pieces of his legislative proposals as amendments to other bills being debated in the Senate.
Sources and References
Anti-cloning bills stall in Senate; vote unlikely soon
Debate over cloning puts the political in science
Opponent of human cloning might modify plan for ban