Republicans seek to prioritize stem cell research programs

That language is similar to the so-called "Dickey-Wicker" amendment that Congress has approved in prior years as part of the annual appropriations process. That amendment prevents federal funds for use in research that destroys human embryos.

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Forbes's bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and 18 additional House Republicans, is intended to prioritize stem cell research as it is funded by the government. But the inclusion of language related to research on human embryos could re-open the question of what research the government can fund.

The answer to this question is somewhat unclear in light of the events of the past few years. Soon after President Obama took office, he issued an executive order removing Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research that only allowed research on stem cell lines created prior to August 2001.

Obama's new order allowed research on stem cell lines created after August 2001.

Then, in 2010, a federal judge ruled against federally funded research on embryonic stem cells because it violates Dickey-Wicker. But that judgment was overturned last April by the Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the administration has the right to determine whether various research programs would actually lead to the destruction of human embryos.