As Democrats in Congress scramble to figure out their options in the wake of a judge’s decision to halt federally funded embryonic stem cell research pending trial, TPM has learned that Sen. Tom Harkin’s Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittee will hold hearings next month when the Senate comes back into session.
Harkin spokeswoman Bergen Kenny said the hearings will be held Sept. 16. Congress returns from recess earlier that week. They are still in the very early planning stages, so no title or witness list is yet available. The hearings will be raised in this subcommittee because it handles funding for the Department of Health and Human Services. The Dickey-Wicker amendment central to District Court Judge Royce Lambreth’s ruling yesterday is attached to the HHS budget.“Senator Harkin is very concerned about the disruption to this very important research,” Kenny told TPM.
Congressional aides from both chambers said leadership is talking through possible remedies. White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton today told reporters that the administration is “exploring all possible avenues to make sure that we can continue to do this critical lifesaving research.” Those avenues include legislation, Burton said.
Burton also confirmed what has emerged from TPM’s reporting that this ruling seems to put research back to a more restrictive level than it was under former President George W. Bush. “We’re still reviewing the decision from this judge, but what we’ve seen so far, from what we can tell, this would also stop the research that President Bush had allowed to go forward early in his presidency,” Burton said in a briefing from the president’s vacation spot in Martha’s Vineyard.