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In Personal, Impassioned Speech, Murray Calls on President to Offer Hope by Signing Stem Cell Legislation

Jun 07 2007

Murray delivers speech as Congress sends stem cell legislation to President Bush

Listen to Murray's Speech

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, as the United States Congress sent President Bush stem cell legislation that provides hope to Americans with debilitating diseases, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling on the President to sign the legislation. In her speech, Murray discussed her father's physical deterioration at the hands of Multiple Sclerosis and the hardships it caused her family. She also spoke of her family's hope for a cure then, and the hopes of millions of families today who are desperately seeking the promise of stem cells. 

The stem cell bill, S. 5 - The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, passed the House today by a vote of 247-176. Senator Murray helped pass the Senate version on April 11th [read more] by a vote of 63-34. Murray laid out the importance of the President's upcoming decision on this bill in her speech. 

"The President has a choice - he can stand with millions of Americans who desperately need cures - or he can stand against them," Murray said. "I’m calling on the President to make the right choice." 

"I have lived with someone with a serious illness.  I have seen the suffering that happens personally, to their families, and to everyone around them.  I know how hard it can be," said Murray. We must not block the discovery of cures for these people.  We must not block their hope.  

The full text of Senator Murray's speech follows:


I just want to commend the Senator from Iowa, Senator Harkin, for his tremendous work and advocacy that has gotten us to this day today. It's a very important day as he talked about– where the House of Representatives voted to pass the embryonic stem cell research bill – joining the Senate. And that bill is now on its way to the President's desk.  It is because of Senator Harkin's work over the years and his advocacy and his not giving up that we're here today. And I am very proud to join him on the floor today to urge the President now to do the right thing.

The House of Representatives today – in voting for this bill – offered hope for millions of Americans in supporting embryonic stem cell research.  There is now one person who can make this decision for millions of Americans, and that's the President of the United States. 

The President has a choice.  He can stand with million of people who are looking for that desperately-needed cures – or he can stand against them.  I hope, like my colleague from Iowa, that the President pauses, thinks about the lives he holds in his hand, and makes the right choice and signs the bill for embryonic stem cell research.

Madame President, this is an issue I know personally.  I grew up in a family of nine.  My dad was a wonderful, physically active human being.  He served our nation in World War II and raised seven children.  He was a strong man, and in my eyes when I was growing up he was indestructible.   

But when I turned 15 years old things changed dramatically in my life and in my family's life.  My dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. That is a horrific disease for anyone who's not familiar with it.  It wasn’t long before he could no longer walk.  He was in a wheelchair and required my mom to take care of him full time. 

It was a very difficult time for my family.  We had to watch my dad deteriorate physically.  We had to watch as my mom had to return to work.  She went on Welfare for a while and finally was able to get some schooling and get a job, but she had to work, take care of my dad, and raise all seven kids.  

We all hoped that a cure might one day be found for my dad and people like him. You never lose hope when something like this happens to you. It's essential to dealing with what you've been handed. But we were also pretty realistic. Scientists didn’t have any promising leads. Doctors said there wasn't much they could do.  There was no cure on the horizon.  There was nothing to hinge our hope on when I was growing up. 

But now we have a chance finally to offer families across this country hope, an opportunity, and a chance for a cure.  It is time for President Bush to stop his obstruction, to stop saying "no" to cures, and to stop saying "no" to hope for families like mine. 

The President Has Hindered Progress


Unfortunately, since being elected President Bush has blocked robust federally-funded research of embryonic stem cells.  Originally, he told us that there would be 78 stem cell lines available for study.  In truth, there were only 21 -- far fewer than scientists say are needed for this research.  

Even the Director of the National Institutes of Health, who was appointed by President Bush, said,

"It is clear today that American science would be better served and the nation would be better served if we let our scientists have access to more cell lines…" 

Well the President refused to heed that advice from the scientific community and his own director of the National Institutes of Health.  Why? To pacify the ideological views of a few in his political base.  What he did by blocking that is forcing millions of Americans, who suffer from many ailments, to put their hope on hold, and to stand idly by and watch as a family member's condition worsened.

Impact on Scientific Progress

Besides putting millions of peoples' hopes on hold, the President's action actually pushed stem cell research overseas.  Our country, which has been known as the world leader in medicine and in scientific research, is now falling behind other countries in this field.  Reuters recently reported that British scientists, with funding from an American who was upset with President Bush's actions, were using embryonic stem cell research to cure some forms of blindness.  Our country must remain at the forefront of innovation, and institutions like the University if Washington in my home state, have to have the ability to compete with organizations in other countries. This President has denied that.

This Bill

The bill that has been sent to the President today and is on his way to his desk - the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 -- allows the Department of Health and Human Services to finally begin robust research on embryonic stem cells from frozen embryos – embryos, it is important to note, that would otherwise be discarded.

This bill also promotes research into finding alternative ways to derive stem cells from embryos. And it does these things while it imposes strict ethical guidelines as all of us have insisted upon.  In fact, the standards in this legislation are more stringent than even the President’s own policy.  

Most importantly, though, the legislation that we want this President to sign takes hope off hold for millions of Americans. 

The President's Veto Threat

Now we all know the President has threatened to once again veto this bill, just as he did last year.  Madame President, I'm here today and hope that he hears me say, please don't do that. There are millions of sick Americans and their families who are watching and waiting and praying and hoping that he signs this bill.

If he vetoes the bill, he will likely claim as he did last year, that the legislation is unnecessary since researching adult stem cells, which he supports, is as promising as studying embryonic stem cells.  Well, just like last year, he would be wrong.  Scientists say embryonic cells, which can be used to grow any type of human or cell tissue, show the most promise, and they offer the most hope.  

Conclusion

So Madame President, I have lived with someone with a serious illness.  I have seen the suffering that happens personally, to their families, and to everyone around them.  I know how hard it can be.  We must not block the discovery of cures for these people.  We must not block their hope. 

Today:

  • At least 17 million Americans suffer from Diabetes;
  • At least 500,000 Americans suffer from Parkinson’s;
  • At least 250,000 Americans suffer from Multiple Sclerosis;
  • And at least 250,000 have spinal cord injuries, including veterans of the Iraq war.

All of these Americans and many others who suffer from a variety of conditions will stand to benefit from embryonic stem cell research.  Finally today in sending this bill to the President, this Congress is offering a chance to families across the country to have hope, to have an opportunity, to have a chance for a cure.  Madame President, I hope that President Bush hears their calls, picks up that pen, stops his obstruction, stops saying "no" to cures, and signs his name to the legislation.

We are all watching.