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Nearly half House members urge stem cell funding

By Kate Snow
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nearly half the members of the House of Representatives sent President George W. Bush Bush a letter Friday urging him to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

The letter was signed by 202 House members, including 40 Republicans, and follows two similar letters sent to Bush last week signed by 61 senators, including 13 Republicans.

Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minnesota, who co-sponsored the letter, said another 12 House Republicans have told him they favor federal funding for the research but were reluctant to go public with their support and did not sign the letter.

The numbers are significant because they come close to the simple majority of 218 votes needed to pass legislation in the 435-member House, if members wanted to reverse a presidential decision.

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Ramstad and his co-sponsor, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, said they wanted to send Bush a message.

"There's no question our letter, our strong bipartisan support is an attempt to influence the president so that he makes the right decision," Ramstad said.

The letter reads in part: "Mr. President, you have read and heard from the scientists that research on embryonic stem cells could result in treatments or cures for millions of Americans suffering a variety of illnesses including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and heart disease. We urge you to take our views into consideration when you make this incredibly important decision. You have the lives of millions of our -- and your -- constituents in your hands."

"There is a clear showing of support for this research in Congress," said DeGette.

She said she hopes the letter bolsters the president should he decide to support embryonic stem cell research, and that it sends "a strong message to the American public that their representatives think that this will benefit tens of millions of Americans."

Ramstad and DeGette said White House officials have indicated a decision from the president was imminent, within days or weeks.

"That's why we thought it was imperative ... that we get the letter down there today," Ramstad said.

Bush, an abortion foe, has been grappling with a decision over whether to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research -- weighing the disease-fighting benefits against the belief by many that using human embryos for research is unethical.



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