Hope Offered Through Principled And Ethical Stem Cell Research Act--Continued

Floor Speech

By:  Ken Salazar
Date: April 11, 2007
Location: Washington, DC



Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the question currently before the Senate regarding whether to allow Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Let me start out my remarks, first, by acknowledging Senator Harkin and the great work he has done in this field. It is beyond a doubt that he is an expert on embryonic stem cell research, one of our national leading experts in terms of health care, and having been an advocate in that area, he is recognized across this country. I admire his work on this legislation, as well as the work that has been put into this legislation by a number of colleagues, including many on the Republican side of the aisle who have joined this bipartisan coalition to make stem cell research a reality for the people of America.

At the end of the day, S. 5 is about hope--about hope for over 1 million Americans who today suffer from the trembling caused by Parkinson's disease. It is about hope for the over 1 million people in America who suffer from Alzheimer's disease. It is about hope for the 17 million Americans who suffer from diabetes, including the hope that we should be giving to those young people who are suffering from juvenile diabetes and have to look at a life of dealing with the difficulties of that illness. It is about hope for the more than 64 million Americans who today suffer from one or more forms of heart disease. So the debate on the floor today is, in fact, about the hope and aspirations of all Americans, including people, many of whom are related to Members in this Chamber today.

Scientists in America agree that, without a doubt, embryonic stem cell research holds great potential for curing these and other diseases. It is remarkable that against the conclusive determination of the scientific community, we have the Federal Government in a position where it is actively withholding the financial support that is needed to carry on this very important research for America. That is not the American way. The American way is to open new doors of hope. We ought to be opening new doors of hope as well with the passage of this legislation later today.

The reason that scientists are so excited about the potential of embryonic stem cell research--and the reason that this kind of research may hold the cure for a whole host of diseases--is that embryonic stem cells have the potential to become virtually any kind of cell in the human body, such as brain cells, heart cells, or cells that produce insulin.

The difficult part of embryonic stem cell research for scientists is controlling the process by which embryonic stem cells become other, more specialized kinds of cells. Much more research into that process is needed. To quote a document prepared by the National Institutes of Health, ``the promise of stem cell therapies is an exciting one, but significant technical hurdles remain that will only be overcome through years of intensive research.''

The Federal funding this legislation authorizes will provide a critical boost to that effort.

Mr. President, like millions of other American families, my family has been touched by the ache of loss brought about by Alzheimer's disease. My father died of complications related to the disease only a few years ago. At the end of his life, I wanted nothing more than to be able to help ease his suffering. Now, as I reflect on that difficult time, I think of the families that are currently enduring the same pain mine did, and I want to help them.

I trust the vast majority of the scientific community that believes embryonic stem cell research may hold the key to the cures these families are seeking. I also believe that our Government can work to promote this science responsibly by paving the way for treatments that will save millions of lives without destroying others.

Toward that end, I believe the legislation passed by Congress last year and before the Senate today represents a measured, responsible step toward tapping into the vast potential that embryonic stem cell research has with respect to finding cures for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and a wide range of other devastating diseases.

In millions of cases, this legislation could mean the difference between a normal life and one of pain and suffering. In millions of other cases, it could mean the difference between life and death. And by authorizing Federal funding only for research on embryonic stem cells that will never become human life and that are donated willingly, it achieves its objectives without destroying the potential for life.

To be sure, support from private funds for this research has been welcome. But it is simply not enough. I have heard from scores of scientists in my home State of Colorado--working in university labs as we speak, trying to find cures for our most devastating diseases--who tell me that the Federal funding this legislation would authorize would boost their capabilities exponentially.

In addition to the practical impact on American laboratories, however, there is something else to consider. I can think of no other Nation that should lead this research with strict guidelines than the United States.

Throughout our Nation's history, America has been the leader in making monumental scientific strides that have made life easier and better for people in our country and all over the world. In a field with such great promise, and at a time where American competitiveness is at the forefront of the Congressional agenda, I believe we must once again be the global leader.

Mr. President, I want to be clear that I also believe we should promote alternative methods of creating embryonic stem cells. For that reason, I strongly support the other proposal that is currently before the Senate, S. 30, which would intensify research into these alternative methods.


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