updated 7/4/2004 7:49:27 PM ET 2004-07-04T23:49:27

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican supporter of embryonic stem cell research, said Sunday there is wide support in the Senate to ease the Bush administration’s restrictive policy.

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Hatch said supporters have more than the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster, but he’s unsure whether Congress would act “in this hot political atmosphere.”

The Utah senator predicted on CNN’s “Late Edition” that the administration and supporters of the research would reach a compromise that would include moral and ethical standards set by the National Institutes of Health.

“That has to be done, or we’re going to have a mess on our hands all over the world,” Hatch said.

He predicted countries around the world would follow NIH standards, including a ban on cloning.

Hatch was among 58 senators earlier this month who signed a letter to the president asking him to relax restrictions on federal financing of embryonic stem cell research.

Long before her husband’s death, former first lady Nancy Reagan supported the research. She said cells from embryos could lead to cures for the Alzheimer’s disease that afflicted Ronald Reagan, along with other illnesses.

“I personally believe that in the end the president and those who are in the administration will see that,” Hatch said. “And we need to support this. Nancy Reagan happens to be right on this.”

Bush signed an executive order in August 2001 that limited federal help to financing stem cell research on 78 embryonic stem cell lines then in existence. Because day-old embryos are destroyed when stem cells are extracted, the process is opposed by some conservatives who link it to abortion.

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