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Senator Kennedy Convenes Roundtable Discussion On The Importance Of Stem Cell Research

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Location: Washington, DC


June 2, 2005

SENATOR KENNEDY CONVENES ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON THE IMPORTANCE OF STEM CELL RESEARCH
Kennedy, with leading experts, urges the U.S. Senate to allow for breathtaking possibilities in medical research

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS- Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy hosted a roundtable discussion of the state's scientific and political leaders to discuss the vast social and economic benefits that the advancement of ethical stem cell research will bring to the Commonwealth. Senator Kennedy convened a group which included Massachusetts Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi leading experts in the biotechnology field and community members most likely to benefit from this research to discuss the importance of stem cell research to curing debilitating medical conditions and disease.

"We should be doing all we can to encourage the nation's best scientists to explore the full potential of stem cells for breakthrough new cures for diabetes, Parkinson's Disease and many other serious illnesses," said Kennedy. "Hopefully the success here will be a wake-up call to Congress and the White House too. It makes no sense for the Bush Administration to sideline the National Institutes of Health and hamstring our scientists with unwarranted and arbitrary restrictions on stem cell research."

On Tuesday, under the leadership of Senate President Travaglini and Speaker DiMasi, the Massachusetts legislature overturned the Governor's veto on stem cell legislation. Massachusetts will now be able to maintain its position at the cutting-edge of medical advancement.

The success of Massachusetts in this field should put President Bush and the Republican leaders in Congress on notice: the American people want the advancement of ethical stem cell research. While the Republican leadership continues to stall on this issue, potentially lifesaving research goes undefined, underutilized and under-funded. Again today, Senator Kennedy urges the U.S. Senate and Majority Leader Frist to move forward on this important legislation and allow for an up-or-down vote.

Senator Kennedy has long championed the fight to promote stem cell research. In this Congress, Senator Kennedy has co-sponsored a bill that bans human cloning and promotes stem cell research under strict ethical guidelines. With overwhelming bipartisan support, the United States House of Representatives passed this bill last week and it now awaits approval in the U.S. Senate.

REMARKS OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY AT MASSACHUSETTS STEM CELL ROUNTABLE DISCUSSION

Once again, Massachusetts is helping to lead the way on an issue of great importance to the nation and its future. Under the impressive leadership of Senate President Bob Travaglini and House Speaker Sal DiMasi, the legislature is running with the ball that Congress is fumbling to pick up. This week's historic vote on stem cell research puts Massachusetts exactly where it should be -- at the forefront of science, innovation and discovery.

In previous times, pioneers and explorers from Massachusetts spanned the world in search of new discoveries and new economic opportunities. That spirit of discovery is alive today in the research laboratories of our great hospitals and universities, and in the creative energy of cutting-edge companies in biotechnology and many other fields.

The key to the future is an innovation economy. The only sensible way to compete in the world economy and meet the challenge of globalization is not a race to the bottom in labor and environmental standards, and other essential protections for people and their families. The right way is to develop new products and new ideas for the global marketplace. That's one major reason why this week's vote in Massachusetts was so important. Both at home and abroad, our leading position in biotechnology is at risk. California has made a major investment in the emerging field of stem cell research, and other states are following their lead. With this week's vote, Massachusetts has made its move to continue to be the national leader in the innovative industries of this new century of the life sciences.

Hopefully, votes like this will be a wake-up call to Congress and the White House too. It makes no sense for the Bush Administration to sideline the National Institutes of Health and hamstring our scientists with unwarranted and arbitrary restrictions on stem cell research. The consequences are already ominous. The biotechnology sector has grown seven times faster in Europe than in America in recent years. South Korea just issued a postage stamp celebrating its own dramatic breakthrough in this research. But in America, President Bush is threatening to veto the stem cell bill that Congress is struggling to send him.

Of course, the most important reasons for funding stem cell research have nothing to do with the economy- they're here with us today. Toby Yarmolinsky suffers from Parkinson's Disease, and looks with hope to the stem cell research that can reverse this serious illness. Adam Roose, a junior at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, and Lauren, Moira McCarthy Stanford's little daughter, have Type One Diabetes. To them, stem cell research may well mean that children with diabetes may never have to take another insulin shot again.

We should be doing all we can to encourage the nation's best scientists to explore the full potential of stem cells for breakthrough new cures for diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, and many other serious illnesses. Yet, the Administration insists on seriously restricting their research by limiting it to the small number of cells created before August 9, 2001, all of which we now know are contaminated with material from mouse cells.

The House of Representatives took a courageous stand last month, when a significant bipartisan majority voted to end those restrictions. They voted for hope, for science, and for a true culture of life.

Strong support by the federal government is the best way to assure that the highest ethical standards are followed and that lifesaving breakthroughs will be passed on to those who need them. We in the Senate now have a straightforward challenge- to approve the pending bill and send it to the President as soon as possible, and I hope we can do so with the cooperation of our Majority Leader, Dr. Bill Frist.

President Bush continues to say he'll veto the bill. I hope he'll reconsider when he sees the broad bipartisan support the measure has in Congress, and the overwhelming support for stem cell research across the nation -- but if he doesn't get the message, Massachusetts has shown what to do when a stem cell bill is vetoed!

Toby, Adam, Lauren, and millions of other patients are counting on us to get it done -- and we won't let them down. I look forward today to hearing from Dr. Melton, Dr. Daley and Dr. Page, on the new developments in this field, and from our business leaders on the economic impact of this research.

But first, it's a privilege to welcome the heroes of the day, who led the fight to put Massachusetts at the forefront of this new research field, our distinguished Senate President, Bob Travaglini and our distinguished Speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi.

http://kennedy.senate.gov/index_high.html

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