The US Senate has passed a bill that aims to loosen President George Bush's restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research for the second time in nine months, but has once again fallen short of the 67 votes needed to override a promised veto, media reports said.
The Senate voted 63 to 34 to pass the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would allow federally funded studies of stem cells isolated from embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The vote capped 20 hours of often passionate debate, with proponents focusing on the cells' potential to help treat a wide range of diseases and opponents decrying the fact that human embryos must be destroyed to retrieve them.
With the House having passed a similar bill in January, the two chambers are now set to hammer out compromise wording and send the legislation to Bush. But the White House Tuesday set the stage for a new Bush veto, saying it was unthinkable that public tax money should be used to destroy human embryos.
Bush used his power of veto for the first time in his presidency to slap down a similar text passed in Congress last year, when it was then controlled by his Republican party.
However, proponents are relishing the fact that they will have the opportunity to rebuke the president by overriding that veto this time.
Although the House majority favouring the legislation is 15 votes larger this year than that in 2005, it is still dozens short of the two-thirds needed for an override.
In that case, Bush's veto pen will prevail and the situation will revert to what it has been since Aug 9, 2001 -- when Bush, in his first major televised address to the nation, declared that federal funds could only be used to study stem cells derived from embryos already destroyed by that date.