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Image: House Freedom Caucus Members Hold News Conference On Immigration And The Southern Border
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., attends a news conference with members of the House Freedom Caucus about immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border outside the U.S. Capitol on March 17, 2021.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

Why did some Republicans oppose the National Marrow Donor Program?

Why would two Republicans vote against a bill to reauthorize the National Marrow Donor Program and the National Cord Blood Inventory?


It's not at all uncommon, even in 2021, for Congress to approve routine legislation with overwhelming, bipartisan support. Most Americans never hear about these measures -- "Uncontroversial bill passes without controversy" isn't a great headline -- with much of the focus on bigger, more contentious pieces of legislation.

Last week, for example, the House passed a bill to reauthorize the National Marrow Donor Program and the National Cord Blood Inventory, which serve an important purpose: the programs were created to help match bone-marrow donors and cord-blood units to cancer patients who need the aid to survive. The bill passed 415 to 2.

At first blush, the lopsided vote hardly came as a surprise, since there are no lobbyists trying to turn leukemia patients into villains. But for those of us who look at congressional roll-call tallies, it was hard not to pause and note that the vote on the "Timely Reauthorization of Necessary Stem Cell Programs Lends Access to Needed Therapies (TRANSPLANT) Act" was not unanimous. Which two members voted against a bone-marrow program?

In this case, Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado were the only "no" votes.

And why, pray tell, did they cast this vote, knowing that the bill would easily pass anyway? Boebert published a tweet on Friday that read in part, "I'm not voting for bills that don't go through committee." While it's true that the bill didn't get a committee hearing, that's because the programs the bill reauthorizes already exist -- and already work. There wasn't anything for lawmakers to discuss at the committee level, which is why 415 members voted for it.

But even more interesting was the statement Greene's office sent to the Daily Beast, complaining, "Nothing in this bill prevents the funding of aborted fetal tissue by taxpayers. It opens the door for the [National Institutes of Health] to use this bill to research the remains of babies who were murdered in the womb."

The same report explained, this reasoning doesn't make a lot sense. Greene's office was apparently under the impression that the TRANSPLANT Act relates to fetal tissue and/or embryonic stem cells. It does not.

[T]his bill is about "adult stem cells," particularly the stem cells that are collected after a baby has been delivered and cut from the umbilical cord. (The blood is then drawn or drained from the umbilical cord.) That blood has been used successfully thousands of times to help treat diseases ranging from cancer to osteoporosis, is credited with saving lives, and is typically fine with anti-abortion groups. Certainly, it was fine with the other 200 House Republicans who voted Thursday -- almost all of whom consider themselves "pro-life."

The bill now heads to the Senate, which last year considered the measure so uncontroversial that it was approved by way of a voice vote. It's a safe bet that President Joe Biden will sign the legislation into law in the near future.