Udall Vows To Continue Fight For Stem Cell Research
On July 19, I voted to override President Bush's veto of H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of
2005. It's unconscionable that the president would choose politics over patients and use his first veto to block medical research that could help millions of Americans who suffer from deadly diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer or spinal cord injury. With his veto, the president is denying these Americans hopehope for cures, hope for treatments and hope for life.
Like most Coloradans, this issue touches me on a personal level. My father passed away in 1998 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. I cannot help but think that if we had fully explored all the technology and biomedical research at our disposal earlier, we may have had better treatments - or even a cure for Parkinson's and my father would still be alive today.
Stem cells have the potential to be used to treat and better understand some of the world's most deadly and disabling diseases. It is critical that our nation fully explore this research, and that's why I cosponsored and voted for the bill last year, it's why I voted to override the president's veto today, and it's why I will continue to be part of the fight for this promising, life-saving research tomorrow and beyond.
Udall Open-Space Bill Clears House Resources Committee
On July 19, the House Resources Committee approved H.R. 2110, the Northern Front Range Mountain Backdrop Protection Study Act, a bill I have sponsored that would study ways to protect the scenic Front Range mountain backdrop in the northern Denver-metro area and the region just west of the Rocky Flats.
The open-space character of this mountain backdrop is an important esthetic and economic asset for adjoining communities, making them attractive locations for homes and businesses. We need to work to maintain the mountain backdrop as a cultural and natural heritage for ourselves and generations to come. This bill is intended to assist in that effort, and I'm pleased that the Forest Service will work in collaboration with local communities, the state, nonprofit groups, and other parties to identify ways to protect this part of Colorado.
The bill now goes to the full House for action.
House Approves Oman Free Trade Deal
While H.R. 5684, the United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act would provide some benefits both for the people of the U.S. and Oman, I think the agreement contains more flaws than benefits, and that is why I opposed it on the House floor.
The agreement, which is similar to free trade agreements (FTA)s with Middle Eastern countries Morocco and Bahrain, would provide the U.S. and Oman duty-free access for almost all consumer and industrial goods, with special provisions for agriculture, textiles and apparel. Both countries would phase out all tariffs on the remaining eligible goods within 10 years.
I have supported a number of trade agreements to expand access to foreign markets for exports as part of a long-term strategy to strengthen the American economy. While expanding market access for American industry, financial markets and farmers is critical, I believe it needs to be done responsibly, accounting for the treatment and protection of workers and the environment. This agreement makes efforts to do so but it needs to go further.
Regarding the agreement's labor provisions, I am concerned that Oman is not in compliance with International Labor Organization (ILO) core labor standards. There are no labor unions in Oman today. The royal decree issued by Sultan Qaboos - which prohibits forced labor and endorses the use of collective bargaining and strikes - is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. It's important that the provisions in the recent decree be implemented before Congress considers this agreement. I think the Administration and the USTR should include labor provisions, such as those contained in the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, in the body of future trade agreements and make them subject to sanctions via dispute resolution procedures. The dispute resolution procedures continue to fall short in FTAs negotiated by the Bush Administration, and the Oman FTA is no exception. It is important that the United States takes step to ensure our trading ! partners provide workers with basic labor rights.
I am also concerned about reports that the U.S.-Oman FTA would create a new right requiring the U.S. to allow any Omani company to buy U.S. port operations. Given the uproar earlier this year over the news that Dubai Ports World had been permitted to take over the operations of several U.S. ports, it seemed only reasonable today to close the loophole in the current trade agreement that allows a foreign company with operations in Oman to operate U.S. Port facilities.
Expanding the liberalization of trade in goods and services between the U.S. and Oman can help us build a stronger relationship with a strategic country in the Middle East. I firmly believe the Bush Administration squandered this opportunity by not paying sufficient attention to national security concerns and by not ensuring basic labor standards in the agreement, which is why I voted against H.R.5684.
House Defeats Federal Marriage Amendment
With all of the troubles facing our communities, like high energy prices, stagnant wages, skyrocketing college costs, and the high cost of health care and the uninsured, and in the world, like the war in Iraq, fighting in Lebanon and Israel, and nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, the priorities of this Congress are truly astounding. This week, the ill-conceived Musgrave/Allard Federal Marriage Amendment once again failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The amendment is unnecessary, unconscionable and un-American. Since this vote came four months before an election and after the Senate rejected a similar measure, I think it shows that the supporters of this proposal were more interested in scoring political points than protecting the institution of marriage or respecting the U.S. Constitution. Discrimination does not belong in the U.S. Constitution, and I'm pleased that the amendment failed.
Marriage and family laws have always been defined by the states, and that's where I think they should stay. I do not think a constitutional amendment is needed to protect a state's ability to define and regulate marriageand that is not the real purpose of this amendment, which instead would put new limits on all the states.
The real purpose of the Federal Marriage Amendment is to lay a foundation for discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. Its adoption would for the first time diminish, not protect or expand, civil rights. It is clear that the reason it was brought to the House floor was to manufacture an issue for the upcoming elections.
"The U.S. Constitution is the most sacred document of our government and is the foundation of the freedoms we enjoy in our country. No one should use it for political gamesmanship. I cannot in good conscience agree to writing discrimination into the Constitution, and that's why I voted against it.
Congressman Mark Udall
Serving Colorado's Front Range and Western Slope