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Kennedy Calls on President Bush to Reconsider His Stem Cell Veto Threat

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Location: Washington, DC


KENNEDY CALLS ON PRESIDENT BUSH TO RECONSIDER HIS STEM CELL VETO THREAT
CALLS ON REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP TO GIVE BILL AN UP OR DOWN VOTE

For Immediate Release Contact: Laura Capps/Melissa Wagoner (202) 224-2633

Washington DC. Today at a press conference with bipartisan and bicameral sponsors of stem cell legislation, Senator Edward M. Kennedy urged the President to reconsider his veto threat and make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans. The legislation passed the House of Representatives yesterday in a 238 to 194 vote with 50 Republicans breaking ranks with President Bush and top House leaders. The six original co-sponsors, Senators Specter, Harkin, Hatch, Feinstein, Smith and Kennedy sent Senator Frist a letter yesterday asking that the House bill be brought up immediately for a vote, without amendment.

"This week, the American people are saying loud and clear that they want the President and Congress to focus on what really matters to them. Yesterday, the House of Representatives took a giant step toward unlocking the potential of lifesaving research. A bipartisan majority -- from red states and blue states, from different faiths, and with divergent political views -- all came together to recognize that the restrictions imposed by the Bush Administration are denying hope and new cure to millions of patients." Senator Kennedy said. "The House voted for hope, for science, and for a true culture of life."

The legislation 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.

The legislation sets additional ethical requirements for stem cell lines to be eligible for funding: 1) they are derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatment and were in excess of clinical need; 2) it was determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would be discarded; and 3) the embryos were donated with the written informed consent of the individuals seeking fertility treatment without financial or other inducements.

Below are Senator Kennedy's remarks (as prepared for delivery)

Statement by Senator Edward M. Kennedy on Stem Cell Legislation (as prepared for delivery)

This week, the American people are saying loud and clear that they want the President and Congress to focus on what really matters to them.

They said they want mainstream judges on our courts.

And they said they want to remove the barriers to responsible stem cell research so new hope can come to millions of sick and injured Americans.

As yesterday's House vote amply demonstrates, there is broad bipartisan support for responsible embryonic stem cell research. It is supported in red states and blue states, by Republicans and Democrats, and by supporters and opponents of Roe v. Wade. This is because they see the lifesaving potential of this research. They believe that embryonic stem cells offer an unparalleled promise of life and hope for their family members and friends who are afflicted with diabetes, Alzheimer's, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's Disease, and a host of other debilitating and often fatal conditions. They understand that, unlike stem cells obtained from adults or umbilical cords, embryonic stem cells provide the hope for treating and possibly curing virtually all diseases and conditions.

In short, they believe that embryonic stem cells can promote a true culture of life by enabling fuller, longer lives for millions of our citizens.

The real question is this: Are the White House and Congress listening? Will the Senate leadership bring up this lifesaving bill right away and will the President sign it?

Few issues are more fundamental to the nation's families than life and good health. That is why this legislation on stem cell research is so important. We should be doing all we can to enable our nation's top scientists at the National Institutes of Health to explore the full potential of such cells to develop breakthrough new cures. Sadly, the Administration has severely restricted their research by limiting it to a small number of cells, all of which we now know are contaminated with material from mouse cells.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives took a giant step toward unlocking the potential of this lifesaving research. A bipartisan majority recognized that the restrictions imposed by the Bush Administration are denying hope and new cures to millions of patients. The House voted for hope, for science, and for life.

Legislation should be an expression of our best values and highest ethical standards. We believe that this legislation meets that test. But failure to pass this bill quickly could result in unethical actions by those who may abuse this promising research, instead of delivering its lifesaving potential to all who need it. Strong support by our government is the only way to assure that the highest ethical standards are followed and that lifesaving breakthroughs will be passed on to those who need them.

Yesterday, President Bush appeared with joyous families who have adopted embryos and brought new children into the world. We all share in their joy and hope that even more families will pursue this wonderful possibility.

But we must also acknowledge the reality that for every embryo adoption, there are thousands of embryos that are simply thrown away. They are not the result of a pregnancy. They are not the product of an abortion or a miscarriage. The only way they can become a baby is to be implanted in a woman, and these embryos that we propose to save for research have not been and will not be. We believe that it is better to save these embryos that would otherwise be destroyed so that they can give life.

Instead of joining the House in approving this critical legislation, the Republican leadership in the Senate is refusing to give it an up or down vote, and the President has said he will veto it.

We urge them to reconsider. We have an historic opportunity to make a very real difference in the lives of millions of Americans and to promote ethical research. Let's not deny hope to patients any longer. I urge my colleagues to support responsible stem cell research and the vast promise it holds for modern medicine and so many of our fellow citizens.

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

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