FEB. 12, WASHINGTON (AP) - A ban on human cloning was endorsed by the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, setting it up for floor debate and a vote in two weeks by the full House of Representatives even as prospects for Senate passage looked dim.
Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said that vote will take place after lawmakers return from the President's Day recess on Feb. 25. The committee tallied a party-line 19-12 vote for the bill.
House passage is likely, since the Republican-led body passed the same bill 265-162 during the last session. But the bill stalled in the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats.
Republicans now control the Senate 51-48-1, but it is unlikely the GOP has the 60 votes necessary to end debate and vote on the bill. Even some Republicans, like anti-abortion advocate Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have said they oppose an all-out ban and would prefer an exemption for research.
``We haven't done an official count,'' said one Senate GOP aide, who added, ``As close as we can tell neither side has 60 votes.''
The bill's uncertain future didn't stop House lawmakers from engaging in a lengthy debate on the issue.
Committee Democrats tried unsuccessfully to gain approval for several amendments, including one that would have allowed an exemption to clone for research purposes. Supporters of the research provision contend cloning research holds the potential for cures to an array of diseases. Opponents have said a cloned embryo is a human even before implantation in a womb, and to destroy it for research would be immoral.
``We can debate from here to kingdom come when life begins,'' said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. ``We should not be criminalizing fields of research which could yield all sorts of benefits.''
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., urged lawmakers, ``Don't force millions of families ... to sacrifice their hopes based on your beliefs.''
But Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., said a complete ban was necessary. ``If we want to prevent cloned human children, we must seek to stop the process at the beginning.''