Capitol building in Sacramento, California

After years of rancorous debate, Tuesday's vote by the U.S. Senate on a package of stem-cell research bills suggests that responsible bipartisan action actually may be possible.

Nineteen Republican senators broke with the anti-abortion base of their party and with President Bush, by voting to lift the restrictions imposed five years ago by the president on federal funding for stem-cell research.

On the other side of the aisle, pro-choice Democrats voted to support a companion bill banning the intentional creation and abortion of fetuses in order to use their tissues for experimental purposes. Although no one, as far as anyone knows, has proposed doing this at this time, the vote affirms that liberals and conservatives can agree that some forms of biomedical research are ethically unacceptable and should be prohibited.

Also encouraging was what was left out of the package, notably, any move to authorize federal funding for research cloning, a procedure fraught with risks. At one time, cloning was thought to be necessary for stem-cell therapy to work, but many scientists increasingly believe that this is not the case....