Ignoring President Bush’s veto threat, the House voted Tuesday to lift limits on embryonic stem-cell research, a measure supporters said could accelerate cures for diseases but opponents viewed as akin to abortion.

Bush called the bill a mistake and said he would veto it. The House approved it by a 238-194 vote, far short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a veto.

“This bill would take us across a critical ethical line by creating new incentives for the ongoing destruction of emerging human life,” the president said Tuesday. “Crossing this line would be a great mistake.”

Republican leaders offered an alternative measure to instead fund research using stem cells derived from adults and umbilical cords, but that didn’t stop the embryo bill.

Majority Leader Tom DeLay said the embryonic-research bill would force taxpayers to finance “the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings.”

The rhetoric didn’t sway many Democrats.

“I don’t need a lecture from the majority leader on moral and ethical leadership,” said Rep. Pete Stark (D-California), referring to questions that have been raised about DeLay’s travel, fund raising and associations with a lobbyist now under federal criminal investigation.

Supporters of the measure said many of the embryos that would be studied would be discarded otherwise rather than implanted in the wombs of surrogate mothers. The moral obligation, they argued, rested on Congress to fund research that could lead to cures for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

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