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Time running out for stem cell funding

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, after signing an executive order and presidential memorandum clearing the way for federal funding of stem cell research in the East Room of the White House on March 9, 2009. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, after signing an executive order and presidential memorandum clearing the way for federal funding of stem cell research in the East Room of the White House on March 9, 2009. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- A return to the Bush-era policy limiting embryonic stem cell research looms as Congress is running out of time to pass funding legislation, observers say.

If no action is taken by year's end, federal funding for the controversial research could return to being highly restricted as it was under former President George W. Bush, The Hill reported Thursday.

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The Bush policy was reversed by President Obama shortly after he took office.

"We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research, and we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield," the president said as he ordered federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

A federal judge struck down Obama's order in August, but an appeals court allowed the current policy to remain in place temporarily until it rules on the issue.

The decision could be moot if Congress passes legislation intended to clarify a 1996 law regarding the use of taxpayer money for research where human embryos are destroyed.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who introduced the House bill, said she's confident the bill could pass in both chambers but said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., has been reluctant to take time from the House's busy schedule unless the Senate commits to taking it up.

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"I've talked to my leadership about it and they say it's still not off the table," DeGette said. "The concern is ... an issue of time."

Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., a co-sponsor of the legislation, says it's imperative to pass the legislation now since he's worried about the reception the bill will get in the next session.

"It's evident that absolutely nothing will pass in the next Congress," Castle said, "so if we're going to do it, we have to do it during this lame duck."

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