Senate Democrats


Washington, DCSenate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, calling for the passage of H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. For millions of Americans with debilitating illnesses, there is no alternative to HR 810 and the wait has been too long. Democrats have fought to open up the promise of stem cell research and to finally put sound science and healthy families ahead of partisan ideology.

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

This afternoon, the Senate will vote on a measure – The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (H.R. 810) – that offers hope.

Hope to 17-year-old Molly Miller in Las Vegas, who has suffered from juvenile diabetes for much of her youth.

Hope to my friend in Boulder City from church. I’ve talked about him before. He has Parkinson’s and is in a wheelchair, but stem cell offers hope that some day he could be cured.

And hope to millions of Americans like him who are suffering from debilitating diseases and conditions like such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and cancer.

For too long, these Americans have been denied hope because the Senate has refused to act.

The House of Representatives passed their stem cell legislation well over a year ago. Unfortunately, until today, it has been stalled in the Senate, and 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 the definition of marriage…

They’ve waited through weeks dedicated to helping a well-off, well-connected few, like the Estate Tax.

They’ve even waited through a “health care” week that had nothing to do with getting America healthy.

They’ve waited too long.

On May 1, Former first lady Nancy Reagan was so baffled and disappointed by the continued delays in the Senate that she wrote in a letter:

“For those who are waiting every day for scientific progress to help their loved ones, the wait for United States Senate action has been very difficult and hard to understand.”

Mr. President, I am disappointed that we had to wait almost fourteen months for this vote. I am, however, pleased the long wait is over, and that – thanks to the persistence of Democrats – the Senate will finally vote on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (H.R. 810).

This legislation provides a rare opportunity for the 109th Congress to consider legislation that is about curing disease and saving lives, not partisan politics.

The Senate needs to pass this legislation because the President’s current stem cell policy is hindering promising medical research that could lead to treatments and cures for many disease and conditions.

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. Under this policy, only 21 stem cell lines qualify, many of which are contaminated or are inferior to newer, more promising stem cell lines.

Our government is needlessly impeding the work of our nation’s top scientists who cannot use federal for funds for research on newer, more promising stem cell lines that do not pose the risk of contamination that the eligible stem cell lines do.

H.R. 810 would solve this problem by expanding the number of human embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federally funded research to include new stem cell lines that would be derived from any of the more than 400,000 surplus embryos from fertility clinics that will never be used to create and pregnancy and would otherwise be thrown away.

Just as important, this legislation would ensure that stem cell research is conducted under ethical guidelines that are stricter than the President’s current policy.

In short, this legislation would allow our government to do everything it can, under strict ethical guidelines and oversight, to develop treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions.

That is why H.R. 810 is supported by forty-one Nobel laureates, virtually every major medical and scientific professional association, major research universities, and patient advocacy organizations.

Mr. President, before we vote on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, the Senate will first consider two other measures: The Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act (S. 2754) and the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act (S. 3504).

Neither one of these measures is a substitute for H.R. 810. The only reason they are here is to provide political cover for the opponents of stem cell research.

They know their opposition to stem cell research is outside the American mainstream, so they want to give themselves political cover by voting for two meaningless bills. It’s a playbook straight from the Republicans Orwellian world.

Neither one of these bills would do any harm, but neither would have any real impact.

There is nothing included in S. 2754 which cannot already be accomplished without this legislation. Even officials at the National Institutes of Health will tell you this.

The second bill, the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act (S. 3504) would ban activity that no scientist is currently doing or wants to do.

While I will support all three bills we are considering today, there is only one that matters: H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. This bill — and this bill only — will clear the way for research that could lead to treatments and cures for a wide range of diseases and conditions.

But don’t take my word for it. Hundreds of patient advocacy groups, health organizations, research universities, scientific societies, religious groups and other interested groups representing millions of patients, scientists, health care providers and advocates wrote the following in a letter to the Senate:

“Of the bills being considered simultaneously, only H.R. 810 will move stem cell research forward in our country….The other two bills…are NOT substitutes for a YES vote on H.R. 810.”

America needs a new direction, and we’ll take a large step in that direction by passing H.R. 810.

A vote against H.R. 810 – regardless of how you vote on the other two bills – is a vote against research and cures.

A vote for it is a vote for the millions of America’s who are looking for help.