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Kennedy, Colleagues Call On Frist To Take Up Stem Cell Legislation

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Location: Washington, DC


KENNEDY, COLLEAGUES CALL ON FRIST TO TAKE UP STEM CELL LEGISLATION
HOUSE-PASSED, BIPARTISAN BILL HAS STALLED IN SENATE FOR NEARLY A YEAR

Washington, D.C.— Today Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Senators Tom Harkin and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called upon Majority Leader Bill Frist to immediately take up the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (H.R. 810) in the Senate for a vote. The legislation—designed to expand federal funding for stem cell research—passed the House of Representatives with a broad bipartisan majority on May 24, 2005. Despite bipartisan support for the measure in the Senate, the bill has never been allowed to come to the floor for a vote. The Senators released a letter signed by over 40 members of the Democratic caucus urging Frist to bring the bill up during his "Health Week" next week.

"The dreams of millions of patients for a better life have been denied by the Bush Administration's needless restrictions on stem cell research," Senator Kennedy said. "We call on the Senate leadership, in the name of the millions of patients who cannot be here to speak for themselves, to schedule a vote on the House-passed bill on stem cell research. We're here today to say, "The time for delay is over!"

The bipartisan Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would allow federal funding for stem cell research using stem cell lines derived under strict ethical requirements from excess in vitro fertilization embryos, regardless of the date they were derived.

Below is the text of the letter signed by over 40 Democrats as well as Senator Kennedy's prepared remarks at the press event and his prepared floor remarks delivered today.

REMARKS OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY STEM CELL PRESS CONFERENCE (As prepared for delivery) MAY 4, 2006

It's an honor to join my Senate colleagues, and I commend their leadership on this very important issue of medical research.

America is a nation founded on hope and the constant quest for a better tomorrow.

Scientific discovery has always been a central part of that quest. Scientific miracles have improved countless lives over the years, and it makes no sense to erect ideological roadblocks to the miracles of the future.

In this new century, the new frontier of discovery is the life sciences, and no aspect of those sciences has greater promise than stem cell research. Physicians can use stem cells to find new ways to deliver insulin to patients with diabetes, new methods to calm the tremors of Parkinson's Disease, and new therapies to reverse the paralysis of spinal injury.

But the dreams of millions of patients for a better life have been denied by the Bush Administration's needless restrictions on stem cell research.

In a triumph of principle over politics, the House of Representatives rejected those restrictions, and voted to approve bipartisan legislation to free this research from the shackles of ideology.

That vote was almost a year ago, on May 24, 2005.

The bill would have passed by a wide margin if put to a vote in the Senate, but the Senate leadership refused to allow a vote. They found time for tax breaks for the wealthy and for all kinds of favors for special interests at the expense of working families. But month after month, in all those hours of debate, they couldn't find a way to bring hope and help to the millions of patients and their families who could benefit from this highly promising research.

We're here today to say, "The time for delay is over!"

We call on the Senate leadership, in the name of the millions of patients who cannot be here to speak for themselves, to schedule a vote on the House-passed bill on stem cell research .

The Senate is about to have a "Health Week". It would be a travesty to let that week go by without a vote on stem cell research.

We appeal to the humanitarian side of the Republican Senate leader--surely he understands the basic principle, "First, do no harm." We say, "Dr. Frist, let us vote on stem cell research."

May 4, 2006

The Honorable William Frist, M.D. Majority Leader United States Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Dr. Frist:

Nearly a year ago, the House of Representatives approved important legislation to end the restrictions that have kept stem cell research from fulfilling its potential to save lives and alleviate suffering. We understand that you are planning a week of Senate debate on legislation related to health. We urge you to bring the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (H.R. 810) to the Senate floor for consideration during this "Health Week".

Stem cell research has vast potential for curing diseases and saving lives. We know you recognize the enormous potential of this research for discovering new cures and therapies for diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries, and we commend the strong support you have expressed for approval of the Housepassed bill. By allowing H.R. 810 to be brought to a vote, you can bring hope and help to millions of American patients and families suffering from these and other serious illnesses.

The House passed H.R. 810 in May 2005 - yet the Senate has failed to take action for nearly a year. Further delay will mean more lost opportunities for new cures and new treatments. The Senate should not mark the anniversary of the House vote with action not more inaction. We therefore urge you to bring H.R. 810 to the Senate floor for debate and a vote during "Health Week". Millions of patients and their families across the nation cannot afford to wait any longer for enactment of this urgently needed legislation.

Sincerely,

Harry Reid Tom Harkin Dianne Feinstein Ted Kennedy Daniel Akaka Max Baucus Evan Bayh Joe Biden Jeff Bingaman Barbara Boxer Maria Cantwell Tom Carper Hillary Rodham Clinton Mark Dayton Christopher Dodd Byron Dorgan Dick Durbin Russell Feingold Daniel Inouye Jim Jeffords Tim Johnson John Kerry Herb Kohl Mary Landrieu Frank Lautenberg Patrick Leahy Carl Levin Joe Lieberman Blanche Lincoln Robert Menendez Barbara Mikulski Patty Murray Bill Nelson Barack Obama Jack Reed Ken Salazar Paul Sarbanes Charles Schumer Debbie Stabenow

Ron Wyden

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http://kennedy.senate.gov/~kennedy/statements/06/05/2006504449.html

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