HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACE MODERNIZATION AND AFFORDABILITY ACT OF 2006--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - May 09, 2006)
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Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I rise to address some issues my colleagues have raised. I am appreciative of the debate and the chance to talk about health care. It is a critically important topic. It is one that we have to talk a lot more about, how we can provide as much health care as possible to everybody at the lowest price that we can get it and get more people insured. That is at the root of what we are trying to get done with the proposal of Senator Enzi and others to get more health insurance, better coverage to more people across the United States. That is a worthy goal, something we need to do. We have far too many people uninsured. We need more people insured. That is central to us. It is central to the hospital and the provider community that we have people who are insured. Because of those who are not insured and then can't pay the price of their health care, that is spread across to other people, which is what we do today. That is what we need to do, but it would be better if we could get more people insured and have a direct system of payment.
Others have said that what we need to be talking about is different than this, rather than expanding health insurance coverage. I respect that. Some of my colleagues have raised the stem cell issue. I want to address the concerns my colleagues have raised on stem cells. I want to report to my colleagues what a tremendous positive story we have to tell about stem cells, an exciting story of people receiving treatments, living longer and healthier lives because of stem cell treatments. These are not the controversial ones. This does not involve the destruction of a young human in the embryonic stage. This involves the use of adult stem cells, which the Presiding Officer and others, everybody in this room has in their body, adult stem cells. It also involves cord blood stem cells. These are the stem cells that are in the umbilical cord between the mother and child, while the mother is carrying the child.
I want to show two charts to start off. I think it is best if we make this a personal debate. I challenge my colleagues who have challenged me about this topic to come forward with pictures of individuals who are being treated with embryonic stem cells. I would like to see the people who are being treated with embryonic stem cells. We have put nearly half a billion dollars of research money into embryonic stem cell research. We have known about embryonic stem cells for 20 years. I don't know of the people being treated by embryonic stem cells.
I can show people who are being treated with adult stem cells or cord blood. This is Erik Haines. He is 13 years old. He was diagnosed with Krabbes disease, the first patient to receive cord blood for this rare, inherited metabolic disease. The date of transplant was 1994. He is alive today. He would be dead without this having taken place.
Let me show you a picture of Keone Penn. I had him in to testify before a Commerce Committee hearing a couple years ago. He has sickle cell anemia. The date of transplant was December 11, 1998. He had been very sick. He wasn't expected to live. As a matter of fact, it says in a statement that he made: If it wasn't for cord blood, I would probably be dead by now. It is a good thing I found a match. It saved my life.
We have now many more people being treated for sickle cell, a whole host of diseases. As a matter of fact, I want to read off a few of these. These are human clinical trials, real people getting real treatments, living longer lives, if not being cured, by the use of adult stem cells and cord blood stem cells in 69 different disease areas.
My colleagues have heard this debate for a period of years. We have been debating stem cells for a number of years. We have been debating the controversial area of embryonic stem cells, which the Federal Government funds, which State governments fund, which private industry and the private sector is fully free to fund completely, every bit of the way that they want to do that. They can. They have been. And we have no human treatments from embryonic stem cells to date. We don't have any. They are funded globally. There is no prohibition against embryonic stem cell research in the United States.
My colleagues seek more than the nearly $500 billion that we have put into embryonic stem cell research, an area that has not produced any human treatments to date. I want to be clear that that is what we are talking about. When we started this debate, my colleagues pushing embryonic stem cells, who in their hearts absolutely believe they are doing the right thing and this will lead to cures, listed cancer, sickle cell anemia, Lou Gehrig's disease. We are going to deal with all of these things. With the promise of embryonic stem cells, we will cure these things. That is what they said on their side when we started this debate 6 years ago. Six years later--I could be off a year or 2--where are the cures? I say we have them. They are in adult and cord blood stem cells.
I ask unanimous consent to print in the RECORD at the end of my statement a sheet of human clinical applications using adult stem cells.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. BROWNBACK. I want to read a few of the 69 from this document: Sickle cell anemia, aplastic anemia, chronic Epstein-Barr infection, lupus, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, different cancers, lymphoma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a number of solid tumors, cardiovascular. This is an exciting area that is taking place where we now have people with acute heart damage, chronic coronary artery disease being treated with adult stem cells. Primarily, this has been an adult stem cell treatment where they harvest stem cells out of their own body and inject them right back into the damaged heart tissue.
Now we are seeing people who couldn't walk up a flight of steps going up eight flights, having hard tissue being regenerated with the use of their own adult stem cells. There is no rejection problem. This is their own cells. They take these adult stem cells from your body, which are repair cells, grow them outside of the body, put them back into the damaged heart tissue area, and now instead of congestive heart failure, without any ability to get enough blood throughout the body, the heart is pumping harder and better. It is actually working. They are regenerating the heart in these people. This is actually taking place in human clinical trials today. It is a beautiful issue.
The list goes on: chronic liver failure, Parkinson's disease. I had a gentleman in to testify who had taken stem cells out of a part of his body, grew them, put them in the left part of the brain. The right side of the body started functioning without Parkinson's disease. Later it came back, after several years, but he had several years free and was starting to learn how better this can work with Parkinson's disease.
Again, continuing from the list: spinal cord injury, stroke damage, limb gangrene, skull bone repair. We have recently had advances. For example, they took the stem cells out of a person's body. They had a form around which the bladder could be grown, outside a new bladder could be grown. They took the stem cells, put them around this form, and actually grew a bladder out of a person's own stem cells. These are marvelous, miraculous things that are taking place in 69 different areas of human clinical trials, adult and cord blood. I ask my colleagues from the other side, the ones who promised all of the cures from embryonic stem cells, as this debate moves forward, we will bring out statements that people made 5, 6 years ago about the cures that would come from embryonic stem cells. The cures have come from these noncontroversial areas. This is where we ought to be funding. This is what we ought to be doing. This is where we are getting treatments.
I ask my colleagues from the other side, where are the treatments with embryonic stem cells? Colleagues on the other side, for whom I have great respect and I know in their hearts are doing what they believe is the right thing to do, asked about reputable scientists opposed to embryonic stem cells. I ask unanimous consent to print in the RECORD this letter at the conclusion of my statement.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. BROWNBACK. It is dated October 27, 2004. It is to Senator John F. Kerry, running for President at the time, signed by 57 scientists who have a real problem with embryonic stem cell research.
They say in this letter:
As professionals trained in the life sciences we are alarmed at these statements.
They are referring to what Senator Kerry was saying, that this would be a centerpiece issue for him in moving forward with science. This is in 2004.
First, your statement misrepresents science. In itself, science is not a policy or a political program.
Second, it is no mere ``ideology'' to be concerned about the possible misuse of humans in scientific research.
Here we come to the real rub of the issue on embryonic stem cell research. Is the embryo human life or isn't it? It is one or the other. It is either a human life or it isn't. It is alive. It is human in its genetic form. Is it a human life or not? If it is not a human life, do with it as you choose. If it is a human life, it deserves protection and respect. We do it for everybody in this room, no matter what your State is, your physical condition. Why wouldn't we do it while you are in the womb?
I have a letter signed by 57 scientists with a real problem with embryonic stem cell research. My colleague asked me to produce scientists who are opposed to embryonic stem cell research. Here they are.
I finally say to my colleagues on this topic, the promises they have made about embryonic stem cell research have not been realized to date, and reputable scientists question whether they will ever be realized. We are half a billion dollars later after investment from the Federal Government on embryonic stem cell research, animal and human. Now you are seeing--this is just the Federal Government, not about the private sector or other governments around the world. I will read to you what other scientists who support embryonic stem cell research are saying about the prospects of embryonic stem cell research. A British stem cell research expert, named Winston, warned colleagues that the political hype in support of human embryonic stem cells needs to be reined in. This is dated June 20, 2005, where he says this:
One of the problems is that in order to persuade the public that we must do this work, we often go rather too far in promising what we might achieve. This is a real issue for the scientists. I am not entirely convinced that embryonic stem cells will, in my lifetime, and possibly anybody's lifetime, for that matter, be holding quite the promise that we desperately hope they will.
Let's look at another researcher talking in this field. I want to get testimony in here from Jamie Thompson, the first scientist to grow human embryonic stem cells. This is the question posed to him:
People who use nuclear transfer generally say that the technique is optimized for producing stem cells rather than making babies. They would not want to equate this with the process that produces embryos that were fit for implantation, and they argue that they are used in the reproductive process differently.
I am talking about the use of embryonic stem cell research in a cloning procedure, where you create a clone, take the embryonic stem cells from the clone.
This is what Professor Thompson says:
So you are trying to define it away and it doesn't work. If you create an embryo by nuclear transfer and you give it to somebody, you didn't know where it came from, there would be no test you could do on that embryo to say where it came from. It is what it is. It is an embryo. It is a young human life. It's true that they have much lower probability of giving rise to a child, but by any reasonable definition, at least at some frequency, you are creating an embryo. If you are trying to define it away, you are being disingenuous.
My colleagues started to raise the issue that if you create an embryo by process of cloning, it is not really a young human life. But if you create an embryo that is a sheep, like Dolly, and grow it up to be Dolly the sheep, is Dolly not a sheep? Would that be the contention? That is simply not the case when they are creating a cloned individual or cloned human being, and that goes into the next step in this debate, to discuss human cloning. The other side calls it somatic nuclear cell transfer--the same process that created Dolly.
My point is that that is the next step on this continuum. We are talking about embryonic stem cell research funding and the lack of production taking place there for human treatment. The next step is that we need to clone and then we need to clone the individual and not harvest it in a day or two, but we need to grow the fetus out several weeks so we have sort of fetal farming, which is a ghastly thing to even consider. Yet it is being talked about in some research circles.
I conclude with the statement that if we want to be successful in this area and treat people, which I believe is the measure that we should go by--the treatment of individuals--our best bet, if my colleagues want human treatments to take place, they want to cure people, if that is what their effort is, let's fund what is working, which is adult cord blood. Let's move off of this politicized debate which is about the definition of young human life. Let's move off this debate and do something that is curing people. And we can.
That is the way we ought to go in this debate. We ought to also pass the Enzi proposal that gets more people health insurance, which is where we should focus this debate now because that is what we are talking about, rather than a politicized issue of embryonic stem cell research, which has not worked and is not working.
I yield the floor.
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