Thursday, April 12, 2007

Senate Passes Stem Cell Research Bill

Defying the threat of another veto from George W. Bush, the U.S. Senate Wednesday voted 63-34 to pass the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which will amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for federally-funded human embryonic stem cell research.

Stem cell science offers hope to millions of Americans as it may be the path to future treatments for diseases such as juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

"The Senate today passed an important bill that offers real hope to millions of Americans suffering from debilitating diseases and conditions. Americans by a huge majority favor stem cell research because they see the suffering of their own friends and relatives, they hear the opinions of experts and they put their faith in science," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) after the vote. "As Americans wait for progress, our scientists and innovators are marking time, waiting for President Bush to keep hope alive."

"We're back, and the voices of hope are stronger than ever," said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the stem cell bill's chief sponsor.

A total of 14 Republicans crossed party lines to support the bill while two Democrats -- Bob Casey (D-PA) and the near-Republican Ben Nelson (D-NE) -- voted with 32 on the GOP side of the aisle to keep America from progressing on this important science.

But the advocacy groups most in favor of stem cell research and who have worked very hard to get to this point (again) were grateful to the Democratic-led Senate.

"In passing the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act today, the U.S. Senate gave great hope to the American people, and took a much-needed step to secure our nation's leadership in the fields of science and medicine," said Sean Tipton, president, of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) of Washington, D.C. "Today's passage of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act in the Senate clearly shows strong bipartisan support toward this bill one day becoming law."

"We are thrilled that the bipartisan members of the United States Senate have listened to the voices of the American people and voted in favor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act," said Peter D. Kiernan, Chairman and CEO of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which is dedicated to finding cures and treatments for spinal cord injuries.

"This critical legislation is the only pro-research, pro-cures bill that will truly advance stem cell research, holding promise for millions of people living with paralysis and a range of other conditions who dream of cures in their lifetime."

The House of Representatives passed similar legislation in January and is expected to adopt the Senate's version in the next several weeks and send the bill to Bush for the expected veto.

"Regrettably, the President chose to exercise the first - and, so far, the only - veto of his administration to reject the bill last year," said Harkin on Wednesday. "He ignored the overwhelming majority of the American people. He ignored scores of Nobel laureates. He ignored his top scientists at the National Institutes of Health. And with one stroke of his pen, he dashed the hopes of millions of Americans who are suffering from diseases and other debilitating conditions."

But the Iowa Senator thinks the Senate is within striking distance of being able to override Bush's veto. Harkin points out that the legislation has the support of three Democratic Senators who did not vote Wednesday, which leaves them one vote shy of the 67 needed to override a veto -- with a whole bunch of Republican Senators who have to get reelected in 2008 having some time to think about that upcoming vote.

Said Harkin on the ultimate passage of a federal stem cell bill: "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."