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Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I am pleased that we have finally reached an agreement on the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act, GINA, and that it will soon become law.

April 2003 marked a scientific discovery significant enough to transform both science and society. April 2003 brought the announcement that a vast team of scientists had determined the exact sequence of the human genetic code and placed that information in public databases. This is an achievement the last generation could only dream about.

Scientific understanding of the links between genes and disease will soon give rise to a flood of new answers and cures for those that suffer from disease. We are on the cusp of a new, unprecedented era of personalized medicine.

As a practicing physician, I look forward to the better care and cures that I'll be able to give my patients with new technology developed from the use of genetic information.

While there have been very few documented cases of genetic discrimination, GINA will eliminate the fear of genetic information. All Americans need to know that their predictive genetic information--that they have no ability to change or control--will not be used against them in health care and employment decisions.

These protections will finally be enacted with the passage of GINA today in the Senate, House passage to follow, and then finally a bill that can be signed by President Bush.

Appropriately drafted legislation is an important key to unlocking the tremendous potential to save and improve lives through the exciting field of medical genomics. GINA has long been a bipartisan vision.

I want to be crystal clear that I have supported the vision of GINA in the past, and I will support it again today.

While I did place a hold on GINA for a while, that hold meant we weren't finished crafting the legislative language on GINA. I reserved my right to debate and perfect it--after taking the time to read and understand the language of GINA and the House action on GINA.

It is like working on an appropriations bill--I support funding the government but that doesn't mean I support throwing $3.1 trillion into it. There is some work that has to be done before we send a bill to the President. As lawmakers, we have the responsibility to make sure we write laws that do exactly what we're telling the American people they do. I feel confident that today's version of GINA does that.

I would note that when we finally started negotiating the substance of my concerns with GINA, we were able to get them resolved in 2 weeks. That was a much faster and more effective way of getting GINA done than what we've seen over the last year--slandering my reputation in the media and trying to slip the unfinished version of GINA into last minute appropriations bills.

I am pleased that Senators Kennedy and Enzi recognized this and exercised leadership in bringing everyone to the table to get a solution that everyone could support. That's the kind of transparency and debate that the American people deserve.

Today's Senate passage of GINA marks a significant step forward so that the American people may fully benefit from the promise of genomics and personalized medicine. GINA removes the barriers to the full potential of personalized medicine.

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