Senate Democrats

REID: THERE SHOULD BE NO DELAY ON STEM CELL LEGISLATION

Senate Democratic Leader says the Senate must consider the House-passed Stem Cell Bill before August Recess

Washington, DC– More than a year after the House of Representatives passed stem cell legislation (H.R. 810), and a month after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist promised yet again to take up legislation that would allow scientists to fully explore the promise of stem cell  research, this bill still has not been brought before the United States Senate. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, urging Bush Republicans in the Senate to change course and bring stem cell legislation to the Senate floor for debate.

The text of Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared, is below.

Earlier this week, U.S. researchers announced that they were able to help paralyzed rats move again by using embryonic stem cells from mice.

This study is evidence that embryonic stem cells might one day be used to treat people with spinal cord injuries or nerve destroying illnesses such as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Of this breakthrough, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Director of the National Institutes of Health, issued the following statement:

"This work is a remarkable advance that can help us understand how stem cells might be used to treat injuries and disease and begin to fulfill their great promise. The successful demonstration of functional restoration is proof of the principle and an important step forward. We must remember, however, that we still have a great distance to go.”

The doctor is right – there is no question that much work remains to be done before scientists will know if they can apply these advances to humans. 

We have, as he said, “a great distance to go.” And if the Senate doesn’t expand the President’s stem cell research policy we will only make this “great distance” longer.

Under the President’s stem cell policy, federal research funds can be used on only a small number of embryonic stem cell lines that were created before August 9, 2001.  This restriction excludes newer and more promising embryonic stem cell lines.  These limitations only serve to further delay progress for research that could ultimately benefit a broad range of diseases and conditions.

One year and one month ago, the House of Representatives passed H.R .810, The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. This legislation would expand President Bush’s 2001 policy for federal funding for stem cell research and permit federal researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)–with the strongest oversight in the world–to finally explore the many possibilities stem cell research holds.

Over the past year, I have repeatedly asked the Senate Majority Leader to find time to consider this bill, but my requests have been met by delay and inaction.

As a result, the millions of Americans who could benefit from the cures offered by stem cell research have been forced to wait.

They’ve waited through weeks dedicated to issues like defining marriage, they’ve waited through weeks dedicated to issues like the Estate Tax, they’ve waited through weeks dedicated to Special Interests and the Majority’s well-connected friends.

Mr. President, they even waited through a “health care” week that had nothing to do with getting America healthy.

How we could have a health care week in the Senate and not consider stem cell research is beyond me. One month ago–on May 24th, the one-year anniversary of the passage of the House-bill–Senator Frist once again said he would find time for the Senate to consider stem cells this summer.

But here we are on June 23rd. Another month has passed, and we still don’t have a commitment to take up stem cell research.

That is unacceptable. The news this week that scientists were able to regrow damaged nerves in rats using embryonic stem cells is just more evidence of the great promise of this research.

We need a new direction. We need to bring this legislation to the floor and give hope to the victims of Lou Gehrig’s, Diabetes and other diseases that could possibly be cured by stem cell.

Mr. President, every day I hear from Nevadans who simply want the Senate to act on the issue of stem cell research so our researchers may fully explore the great promise of stem cells.  Here’s an example of what I hear. It’s from one woman from Henderson, Nevada. She wrote me a letter expressing the hope stem cell offers her and her family:

“….My son 22 year-old son was in a diving accident just two weeks after graduating from high school and is now a quadriplegic.  So instead of heading off to college on a soccer scholarship that autumn, he found himself being fitted for a wheelchair and a life of total dependency on others…..while they [stem cells] may not cure him to the point of walking again, they will certainly provide him with an opportunity to improve the quality of his life.  He wants to be able to feed himself, brush his own teeth, wash his hands and face when he wants to…I know you support stem cell research but I just wanted to give you my support and the support of our entire family as you fight the fight for those who can’t fight for themselves….”

I understand that there are a number of very important issues this body ought to consider this session, but few are as important to the American people and this mother in Nevada as stem cell research.

I hope that the distinguished Majority Leader will keep his word and will find time for the Senate to take up the House-passed stem cell bill prior to the August recess.

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