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Democrat urges Senate on stem cell measure

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President Bush’s threat to veto a Senate bill that would fund embryonic stem cell research is a rejection of potential lifesaving cures, a Missouri Democrat seeking a U.S. Senate seat said Saturday.

“I must admit it is hard to understand that the president’s first veto in six years would amount to saying no to doctors, researchers, patients and families,” Claire McCaskill said in the weekly Democratic radio address.

McCaskill’s comments came ahead of a long-delayed Senate vote next week on a bill that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The House already has passed a similar measure, but it’s unlikely that either chamber can muster enough votes to override a presidential veto.

Debate over the research has emerged as a key issue in Missouri, where McCaskill is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent (news, bio, voting record). Voters there will consider a ballot initiative this fall that would amend the state constitution to protect all federally allowed forms of stem cell research.

After months of delay, Talent came out against the state ballot measure, saying it would make human cloning a constitutional right. But he also urged voters to “make up their own minds,” prompting accusations of waffling.

The issue has created a rift among Republicans, and a recent poll shows about two-thirds of Missouri voters favor the measure. The same poll has McCaskill running slightly ahead of Talent.

Opponents like Talent believe embryonic stem cell research destroys human life because the embryos are destroyed. McCaskill said the research holds the promise to cure debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes.

“There are thousands of surplus eggs in fertility clinics in this nation that will be thrown away,” McCaskill said. “Shouldn’t we instead use them to value the life of a man with sickle cell anemia, a child with juvenile diabetes or a woman paralyzed from a spinal cord injury?”

Talent plans to support two alternative measures in the Senate next week. One would boost funding for adult stem cell research and the other would ban the practice of creating embryos for the sole purpose of research.

In choosing McCaskill for the response, Democrats hope the stem cell issue can resonate with voters and help the party take back control of the Senate.

McCaskill is the second Democratic Senate challenger this year to give the Saturday address.

By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press Writer

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